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J Struct Biol. 2003 Mar;141(3):208-17.

Characteristics of mineral particles in the human bone/cartilage interface.

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Erich Schmid Institute of Materials Science and Metal Physics Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences and University of Leoben, Jahnstr. 12, A-8700, Leoben, Austria.


Bone and cartilage consist of different organic matrices, which can both be mineralized by the deposition of nano-sized calcium phosphate particles. We have studied these mineral particles in the mineralized cartilage layer between bone and different types of cartilage (bone/articular cartilage, bone/intervertebral disk, and bone/growth cartilage) of individuals aged 54 years, 12 years, and 6 months. Quantitative backscattered electron imaging and scanning small-angle X-ray scattering at a synchrotron radiation source were combined with light microscopy to determine calcium content, mineral particle size and alignment, and collagen orientation, respectively. Mineralized cartilage revealed a higher calcium content than the adjacent bone (p<0.05 for all samples), whereas the highest values were found in growth cartilage. Surprisingly, we found the mineral platelet width similar for bone and mineralized cartilage, with the exception of the growth cartilage sample. The most striking result, however, was the abrupt change of mineral particle orientation at the interface between the two tissues. While the particles were aligned perpendicular to the interface in cartilage, they were oriented parallel to it in bone, reflecting the morphology of the underlying organic matrices. The tight bonding of mineralized cartilage to bone suggests a mechanical role for the interface of the two elastically different tissues, bone and cartilage.

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