Cross-sectional geometry of the femoral midshaft in baboons is heritable

Heather L. Hansen, Todd L. Bredbenner, Daniel P. Nicolella, Michael C. Mahaney, Lorena M. Havill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A great deal of research into the determinants of bone strength has unequivocally demonstrated that variation in bone strength is highly subject to genetic factors. Increasing attention in skeletal genetic studies is being paid to indicators of bone quality that complement studies of BMD, including studies of the genetic control of bone geometry. The aim of this study is to investigate the degree to which normal population-level variation in femoral midshaft geometry in a population of pedigreed baboons (Papio hamadryas spp.) can be attributed to the additive effect of genes. Using 110 baboons (80 females, 30 males), we 1) characterize normal variation in midshaft geometry of the femur with regard to age and sex, and 2) determine the degree to which the residual variation is attributable to additive genetic effects. Cross-sectional area (CSA), minimum (IMIN) and maximum (IMAX) principal moments of inertia, and polar moment of inertia (J) were calculated from digitized images of transverse midshaft sections. Maximum likelihood-based variance decomposition methods were used to estimate the mean effects of age, sex, and genes. Together age and sex effects account for ∼ 56% of the variance in each property. In each case the effect of female sex is negative and that of age is positive, although of a lower magnitude than the effect of female sex. Increased age is associated with decreased mean cross-sectional geometry measures in the oldest females. Residual h2 values range from 0.36 to 0.50, reflecting genetic effects accounting for 15% to 23% of the total phenotypic variance in individual properties. This study establishes the potential of the baboon model for the identification of genes that regulate bone geometric properties in primates. This model is particularly valuable because it allows for experimental designs, environmental consistency, availability of tissues, and comprehensive assessments of multiple integrated bone phenotypes that are not possible in human populations. The baboon is of particular importance in genetic studies, because it provides results that are likely highly relevant to the human condition due to the phylogenetic proximity of baboons to humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-897
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone morphometry
  • Bone quality
  • Non-human primate model
  • Skeletal aging
  • Skeletal genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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