Osteocytes are suggested to play a central role in bone remodeling. Evaluation of iliac crest biopsies is a standard procedure for evaluating bone conditions in the clinical setting. Despite the widespread use of such biopsies, little is known about the population of osteocytes in the iliac crest from normal individuals. Contradicting results have been reported on osteocyte lacunar properties in human bone. Hence, a solid understanding of the osteocyte population in healthy bone and the effect of age and sex is needed as good reference data are lacking. Furthermore, the role of cortical bone in bone quality has recently been suggested to be more important than previously realized. Therefore, the present study assesses osteocyte lacunar properties and cortical microstructure of the iliac crest as a function of age and sex. A total of 88 iliac crest bone samples from healthy individuals (46 women, aged 18.5–96.4 years and 42 men, aged 22.6–94.6 years) with an even age-distribution were examined using synchrotron radiation μCT and in house μCT, with > 5 × 106 osteocyte lacunae measured and analyzed. The study revealed that osteocyte lacunar volumes were unaffected by both age and sex. Osteocyte lacunar density did not differ between women and men, and only showed a significant decrease with age when pooling data from both sexes. Cortical porosity and Haversian canal density increased while cortical thickness decreased with age, with cortical thinning dominating the age-related cortical bone loss. None of the cortical microstructural parameters showed any sex dependency. Only weak links between osteocyte lacunar properties and cortical microstructural properties in iliac crest bone were found. Interestingly, the Haversian canal diameters were significantly but weakly negatively correlated with osteocyte lacunar volumes.
Keywords: Osteocytes; Osteocyte lacunae; Iliac crest; Cortical bone; Age; Sex; Nano-CT