Chemical makeup of microdamaged bone differs from undamaged bone

Bone. 2006 Aug;39(2):318-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2006.02.052. Epub 2006 Apr 11.


Microdamage naturally occurs in bone tissue as a result of cyclic loading placed on the body from normal daily activities. While it is usually repaired through the bone turnover process, accumulation of microdamage may result in reduced bone quality and increased fracture risk. It is unclear whether certain areas of bone are more susceptible to microdamage than others due to compositional differences. This study examines whether areas of microdamaged bone are chemically different than undamaged areas of bone. Bone samples (L3 vertebrae) were harvested from 15 dogs. Samples were stained with basic fuchsin, embedded in poly-methylmethacrylate, and cut into 5-microm-thick sections. Fuchsin staining was used to identify regions of microdamage, and synchrotron infrared microspectroscopic imaging was used to determine the local bone composition. Results showed that microdamaged areas of bone were chemically different than the surrounding undamaged areas. Specifically, the mineral stoichiometry was altered in microdamaged bone, where the carbonate/protein ratio and carbonate/phosphate ratio were significantly lower in areas of microdamage, and the acid phosphate content was higher. No differences were observed in tissue mineralization (phosphate/protein ratio) or crystallinity between the microdamaged and undamaged bone, indicating that the microdamaged regions of bone were not over-mineralized. The collagen cross-linking structure was also significantly different in microdamaged areas of bone, consistent with ruptured cross-links and reduced fracture resistance. All differences in composition had well-defined boundaries in the microcrack region, strongly suggesting that they occurred after microcrack formation. Even so, because microdamage results in an altered bone composition, an accumulation of microdamage might result in a long-term reduction in bone quality.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alendronate / administration & dosage
  • Alendronate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / pharmacology
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Carbonates / analysis
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Dogs
  • Etidronic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Etidronic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Etidronic Acid / pharmacology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / drug effects
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Phosphates / analysis
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Random Allocation
  • Risedronic Acid
  • Spectrophotometry, Infrared
  • Synchrotrons
  • Time Factors


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Carbonates
  • Phosphates
  • Proteins
  • Collagen
  • Risedronic Acid
  • Etidronic Acid
  • Alendronate