Microstructure and nanomechanical properties in osteons relate to tissue and animal age

Jayme Burket, Samuel Gourion-Arsiquaud, Lorena M. Havill, Shefford P. Baker, Adele L. Boskey, Marjolein C.H. van der Meulen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Material property changes in bone tissue with ageing are a crucial missing component in our ability to understand and predict age-related fracture. Cortical bone osteons contain a natural gradient in tissue age, providing an ideal location to examine these effects. This study utilized osteons from baboons aged 0-32 years (n=12 females), representing the baboon lifespan, to examine effects of tissue and animal age on mechanical properties and composition of the material. Tissue mechanical properties (indentation modulus and hardness), composition (mineral-to-matrix ratio, carbonate substitution, and crystallinity), and aligned collagen content (aligned collagen peak height ratio) were sampled along three radial lines in three osteons per sample by nanoindentation, Raman spectroscopy, and second harmonic generation microscopy, respectively. Indentation modulus, hardness, mineral-to-matrix ratio, carbonate substitution, and aligned collagen peak height ratio followed biphasic relationships with animal age, increasing sharply during rapid growth before leveling off at sexual maturity. Mineral-to-matrix ratio and carbonate substitution increased 12% and 6.7%, respectively, per year across young animals during growth, corresponding with a nearly 7% increase in stiffness and hardness. Carbonate substitution and aligned collagen peak height ratio both increased with tissue age, increasing 6-12% across the osteon radii. Indentation modulus most strongly correlated with mineral-to-matrix ratio, which explained 78% of the variation in indentation modulus. Overall, the measured compositional and mechanical parameters were the lowest in tissue of the youngest animals. These results demonstrate that composition and mechanical function are closely related and influenced by tissue and animal age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-284
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 11 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Ageing
  • Nanoindentation
  • Osteon
  • Primate
  • Tissue properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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