The sizes, shapes, and organizational states of the crystals in bone are studied by systematic disaggregation of the mineral phase. This is achieved by oxidizing the organic phase with sodium hypochlorite, dispersing the resultant particles by sonication, and separating the crystal aggregates from the crystal monomers by gravity setting in ethanol. Six different bones are compared. Bones in which crystals are intimately associated with the collagen fibrils mostly disaggregate into crystal monomers. In dense bones, where the crystals are mostly located between fibrils, they tend to persist as “fused” aggregates. All the crystals are tabular or plate-shaped. In bones in which the majority of crystals are associated with the collagen fibrils, just less than 90% of the crystals are shorter than about 450 Å in length. Their widths are on the average about 250 Å, almost an order of magnitude larger than the diameters of individual gap regions within the collagen fibril. The notion that one crystal is located in one gap region is therefore untenable and a reevaluation of the relations between collagen and mineral in bone is necessary.
Keywords: Bone; Hydroxyapatite; Crystals; Collagen; Biomineralization