With the proportion of elderly people increasing in many countries, osteoporosis has become a growing public health problem, with rising medical, social, and economic consequences. It is well recognized that a combination of low bone mass and the deterioration of the trabecular architecture underlies osteoporotic fractures. A comprehensive understanding of the relationships between bone mass, the three-dimensional (3D) architecture of bone and bone function is fundamental to the study of new and existing therapies for osteoporosis. Detailed analysis of 3D trabecular architecture, using high-resolution digital imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance microimaging (MRmicroI), micro-computed tomography (microCT), and direct image analysis, has become feasible only recently. Rapid prototyping technology is used to replicate the complex trabecular architecture on a macroscopic scale for visual or biomechanical analysis. Further, a complete set of 3D image data provides a basis for finite element modeling (FEM) to predict mechanical properties. The goal of this paper is to describe how we can integrate three-dimensional microimaging and image analysis techniques for quantitation of trabecular bone architecture, FEM for virtual biomechanics, and rapid prototyping for enhanced visualization. The integration of these techniques provide us with an unique ability to investigate the role of bone architecture in osteoporotic fractures and to support the development of new therapies.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.