Introduction: The composite nature of bone as a material governs its structure and mechanical behavior. How the collagenous matrix mineralizes, in terms of both mineral deposition and structure of the mineral crystals, is highly interesting when trying to elucidate the complex structural changes that occur during bone growth and maturation. We have previously looked at mineral deposition and structural evolution of the collagenous matrix, linking both to changes in mechanics. The purpose of this study was to provide specific information on changes in crystal size and organization as a function of growth and maturation.
Materials and Methods: Using micro-computed tomography (µCT) and micro-focused scanning small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) we investigated cortical bone in two orthogonal directions relative to the long axis of the humeri of New Zealand White rabbits spanning from new-born to 6-months of age. We also investigated the changes with tissue age by looking at radial profiles of osteonal structures in the 6-months old rabbits. The findings were compared to our previous compositional, structural and mechanical data on the same sample cohort.
Results: µCT showed a continuous mineral deposition up until 3-months of age, whilst the SAXS data showed an increase in both crystal thickness and degree of orientation up until 6-months of age. The osteonal profiles showed no statistically significant changes in crystal thickness.
Conclusions: Comparison to previously collected mechanical data suggests that changes are not only explained by amount of mineral in the tissue but also by the crystal dimensions.