The mechanism of calcification in bone and related tissues is a matter of current interest. The mean size and the arrangement of the mineral crystals are important parameters difficult to obtain by electron microscopy. Furthermore, most studies have been carried out on poorly calcified model systems or chemically treated samples. In the work presented here, native bone was studied as a function of age by a quantitative small-angle X-ray scattering method (SAXS). Bone samples (calvariae and ulnae) from rats and mice were investigated. Measurements were performed on native bone immediately after dissection for samples up to 1 mm thick. The size, shape, and predominant orientation of the mineral crystals in bone were obtained for embryonal, young, and adult animals. The results indicate that the mineral nucleates as thin layers of calcium phosphate within the hole zone of the collagen fibrils. The mineral nuclei subsequently grow in thickness to about 3 nm, which corresponds to maximum space available in these holes.
Keywords: Bone; Mineral crystals; Small-angle X-ray scattering; Hydroxyapatite; Biomineralization