The 3D structure of the collagen fibril network in human trabecular bone: relation to trabecular organization

Bone. 2015 Feb;71:189-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2014.10.017. Epub 2014 Oct 30.


Trabecular bone is morphologically and functionally different from compact bone at the tissue level, but both are composed of lamellae at the micrometer-scale level. We present a three-dimensional study of the collagenous network of human trabecular lamellar bone from the proximal femur using the FIB-SEM serial surface view method. The results are compared to human compact lamellar bone of the femoral shaft, studied by the same method. Both demineralized trabecular and compact lamellar bone display the same overall structural organization, namely the presence of ordered and disordered materials and the confinement of the canalicular network to the disordered material. However, in trabecular bone lamellae a significant proportion of the ordered collagen fibril arrays is aligned with the long axis of the trabecula and, unlike in compact bone, is not related to the anatomical axis of the whole femur. The remaining ordered collagen fibrils are offset from the axis of a trabecula either by about 30° or 70°. Interestingly, at the tissue scale of millimeters, the most abundant angles between any two connected trabeculae - the inter-trabecular angles - center around 30° and 70°. This implies that within a framework of interconnected trabeculae the same lamellar structure will always have a significant component of the fibrils aligned with the long axes of connected trabeculae. This structural complementarity at different hierarchical levels presumably reflects an adaptation of trabecular bone to function.

Keywords: Collagen array; FIB-SEM; Inter-trabecular angle; Lamella; Trabecular bone; µCT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Femur / anatomy & histology*
  • Femur / diagnostic imaging
  • Femur / ultrastructure
  • Fibrillar Collagens / chemistry*
  • Fibrillar Collagens / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • X-Ray Microtomography
  • Young Adult


  • Fibrillar Collagens