The macro- and micro-features of bone can be assessed by using imaging methods. However, nano- and molecular features require more detailed characterization, such as use of e.g., vibrational spectroscopy and X-ray scattering. Nano- and molecular features also affect the mechanical competence of bone tissue. The aim of the present study was to reveal the effects of mineralization and its alterations on the mineral crystal scale, by investigating the spatial variation of molecular composition and mineral crystal structure across the cross-section of femur diaphyses in young rats, and healthy and osteoporotic mature rats (N = 5). Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and scanning small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS) techniques with high spatial resolution were used at identical locations over the whole cross-section. This allowed quantification of point-by-point information about the spatial distribution of mineral crystal volume. All measured parameters (crystal dimensions, degree of orientation and predominant orientation) varied across the cortex. Specifically, the crystal dimensions were lower in the central cortex than in the endosteal and periosteal regions. Mineral crystal orientation followed the cortical circumference in the periosteal and endosteal regions, but was less well-oriented in the central regions. Central cortex is formed rapidly during development through endochondral ossification. Since rats possess no osteonal remodeling, this bone remains (until old age). Significant linear correlations were observed between the dimensional and organizational parameters, e.g., between crystal length and degree of orientation (R² = 0.83, p < 0.001). Application of SAXS/WAXS provides valuable information on bone nanostructure and its constituents, effects of diseases and, prospectively, mechanical competence.
Bone mineralization; Rat; Osteoporosis; Small/wide angle X-ray scattering; Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy