Osteocytes have been hypothesized to control the amount and location of bone tissue which is resorbed or formed, based on the strain magnitude they perceive, and therefore may play a role in the bone loss of osteoporosis. The shape of osteocyte lacunae influences the mechanical strain applied to the osteocyte; thus, it is important to quantify their shape to further understand the mechanical environment of this cell. Previous studies of the size and shape of lacunae have been contradictory and limited to two-dimensional measurements on iliac crest biopsies. This investigation measured the size and shape of osteocyte lacunae in trabecular bone near a typical fracture site from three-dimensional image sets obtained by confocal microscopy. Bone tissue specimens were obtained from individuals undergoing hip replacement subsequent to fracture, and matched cadaveric specimens without fracture. After extensive image processing to differentiate the lacunae from the matrix, the volume and anisotropy of the lacuna were determined. No significant difference was found in the size (volume) or shape (anisotropy) of the lacunae between women with and without osteoporotic fracture, although there was a large range of sizes and shapes in both groups. These results suggest that the size or shape of the lacunae, which influences the strain in osteocytes, does not play a role in osteoporotic fracture. In addition, this study provides geometric measures of lacunae that are important in computational modeling of the mechanical environment of osteocytes.
Confocal microscopy; Osteoporosis; Shape; Osteocyte lacuna; Bone