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Microsc Microanal. 2002 Apr;8(2):104-15.

The canalicular structure of compact bone in the rat at different ages.

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  • 1Section of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine M/C 787, University of Illinois at Chicago, 840 S. Wood St., Chicago, IL 60612-7323, USA.


Osteocytes communicate through a canalicular system that maintains the vitality and mineral metabolism of bone. Casting the vascular canals and canaliculi of compact bone with methacrylate and viewing them with scanning electron microscopy shows their extent and relationships. Confocal laser scanning microscopy of the same specimen before corrosion establishes the degree of calcification of the different tissue components. These methods were used to compare basal with alveolar compact bone in the rat mandible at different ages. Sections of the mandibular molar region were placed in a methacrylate resin. After polymerization and study with confocal microscopy, the organic matrix was removed. Juvenile rats had large irregular central vascular canals and lacunae that were more concentric in the basal than the alveolar bone. Cast lacunae were round, and the canaliculi from these lacunae were short and thick in both bones. Adult rats had regular concentrically arranged lacunae in the basal bone. Cast lacunae were ellipsoid and flatter in the basal bone than in the alveolar bone. The intercommunicating canaliculi were increased and canaliculi had more branching than the juvenile rats. The aged rats had fewer vascular canals, lacunae, and canaliculi and had osteoporotic changes. The cast lacunae were slender and flat especially in the basal bone. The porosity of the mandible became more pronounced in the alveolar than in the basal bone with aging. The canaliculi of mandibular compact bone thinned and developed extensive branching with adulthood but decreased in size and number with advanced age. Lacunae proceed from the large circular structures of youth to the flat forms of the aged. These studies show that the internal structure of compact bone changes with age and mirrors its functional state.

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