Despite osteocytes’ ideal position to sense the local environment and thereby influence bone remodeling, the function of osteocytes in bone remains controversial. In this study, histomorphometric examination of male and female femoral middiaphyseal cortical bone was conducted to determine if bone’s remodeling response, indicated by tissue porosity and accumulation of damage, is associated with osteocyte lacunar density (number of osteocyte lacunae per bone area). The results support the sensory role of the osteocyte network as the decline in osteocyte lacunar density in human cortical bone is associated with the accumulation of microcracks and increase in porosity with age. Porosity and microcrack density increased exponentially with a decline in osteocyte lacunar density indicating that a certain minimum number of osteocytes is essential for an “operational” network. No gender-related differences were found in the relationship of osteocyte lacunar density to age, porosity, or microcrack density. The coefficient of variation of osteocyte lacunar density increased linearly with age, indicating that aging bone tissue is characterized by increased heterogeneity in the spatial organization of osteocytes. Osteocyte lacunar density, porosity, and microcrack density exhibited the same exponential probability density distribution in the donor population, indicating their regulation by similar biological phenomena.
Keywords: Cortical bone; Osteocyte; Lacunae; Microcracks; Porosity; Aging