Summary Bone mineral density is the gold-standard for assessing bone quantity and diagnosing osteoporosis. Although bone mineral density measurements assess the quantity of bone, the quality of the tissue is an important predictor of fragility. Understanding the macro- and nanoscale properties of bone is critical to understanding bone fragility in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease that affects more than 75 million people worldwide. The gold standard for osteoporosis prognosis, bone mineral density, primarily measures the quantity of bone in the skeleton, overlooking more subtle aspects of bone’s properties. Bone quality, a measure of bone’s architecture, geometry and material properties, is evaluated via mechanical, structural and chemical testing. Although decreased BMD indicates tissue fragility at the clinical level, changes in the substructure of bone can help indicate how bone quality is altered in osteoporosis. Additionally, mechanical properties which can quantify fragility, or bone’s inability to resist fracture, can be changed due to alterations in bone architecture and composition. Recent studies have focused on examination of bone on the nanoscale, suggesting the importance of understanding the interactions of the mineral crystals and collagen fibrils and how they can alter bone quality. It is therefore important to understand alterations in bone that occur at the macro-, micro- and nanoscopic levels to determine what parameters contribute to decreased bone quality in diseased tissue