Bone matrix quality in paired iliac bone biopsies from postmenopausal women treated for 12 months with strontium ranelate or alendronate

Bone. 2021 Dec;153:116107. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2021.116107. Epub 2021 Jul 11.


Bone quality is altered mainly by osteoporosis, which is treated with modulators of bone quality. Knowledge of their mechanisms of action is crucial to understand their effects on bone quality. The goal of our study was to compare the action of alendronate (ALN) and strontium ranelate (SrRan) on the determinants of bone quality. The investigation was performed on over 60 paired human iliac biopsies. Paired samples correspond to biopsies obtained from the same patient, one before treatment (baseline) and one after 12 months of treatment, in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Vibrational spectroscopy (Raman and FTIRM) and nanoindentation were used to evaluate the effect of both drugs on bone quality at the ultrastructural level. Outcomes measured by vibrational spectroscopy and nanoindentation are sensitive to bone age. New bone packets are distinguished from old bone packets. Thus, the effect of bone age is distinguished from the treatment effect. Both drugs modify the mineral and organic composition in new and old bone in different fashions after 12 months of administration. The new bone formed during ALN administration is characterized by an increased mineral content, carbonation and apatite crystal size/perfection compared to baseline. Post-translational modifications of collagen are observed through an increase in the hydroxyproline/proline ratio in new bone. The proteoglycan content is also increased in new bone. SrRan directly modulates bone quality through its physicochemical actions, independent of an effect on bone remodeling. Strontium cations are captured by the hydrated layer of the mineral matrix. The mineral matrix formed during SrRan administration has a lower carbonate content and crystallinity after 12 months than at baseline. Strontium might create bonds (crosslinks) with collagen and noncollagenous proteins in new and old bone. The nanomechanical properties of bone were not modified with either ALN or SrRan, probably due to the short duration of administration. Our results show that ALN and SrRan have differential effects on bone quality in relation to their mechanism of action.

Keywords: Alendronate; Bone quality; Collagen; Mineralization; Paired human bone biopsies; Strontium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alendronate / therapeutic use
  • Biopsy
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Bone Matrix
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ilium
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal* / drug therapy
  • Postmenopause
  • Thiophenes


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Thiophenes
  • strontium ranelate
  • Alendronate