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J Biomech. 2002 Feb;35(2):189-98.

Microstructural elasticity and regional heterogeneity in human femoral bone of various ages examined by nano-indentation.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152, USA.


The elastic modulus and hardness of secondary osteonal and interstitial bone was examined through the thickness of the cortex of human femora of various ages by nano-indentation. There was a clear difference between the stiffness and hardness of secondary osteonal and interstitial bone, the latter being stiffer (F(1,48)=56.0, P<0.001). There were some differences between the bones of different subjects; however, there were no differences that could be reliably associated with the chronological age of the subject, or with differences in location through the thickness of the cortex (F(2,48)=0.21, P=0.810). Previous studies have been equivocal in relating changes in the macroscopic 'composite' material stiffness of bone to the age of the individual. By combining the results of the nano-tests with histological measures, we were able to produce a good relationship of the microstructural properties at the matrix level with the bending modulus of whole bone (R(2)=0.88, P<0.001) and this improved further by taking into account the age of the individual (R(2)=0.94, P<0.001). Our results suggest that using differences in the volumetric proportions of secondary osteons versus interstitial bone, and the properties of these elements/structures in isolation may be a more accurate method of determining differences in elastic modulus of whole bone between individuals of various ages.

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