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Poult Sci. 2004 Feb;83(2):215-21.

Assessing bone mineral density in vivo: dual energy X-ray absorptiometry.

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  • 1Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry can be used as a noninvasive tool to monitor the skeletal integrity of live birds. A pDexa X-ray bone densitometer was used to determine bone mineral densities (BMD) of the left tibia together with the fibula and the humerus of live, unanesthetized birds. Densitometry effectively detected changes in bone integrity of live birds fed varying levels of dietary calcium. Hens consuming 1.8, 3.6, or 5.4% dietary calcium had BMD of 0.147, 0.157, and 0.176 g/cm2 (SEM = 0.005), respectively (linear effect, P < 0.001). Likewise, bone ash weight, breaking force, stress, modulus of elasticity, and eggshell traits also increased linearly in response to increased calcium in the diet (P < 0.05). Densitometric live scans for BMD were positively correlated (P < 0.001) with bone breaking force (r = 0.65) and bone ash (r = 0.77). We also monitored BMD in live Leghorn and broiler females during their life cycle. The tibial BMD of White Leghorns and broilers increased from 15 to 65 wk of age with the BMD of the broiler tibia increasing at a greater rate than that of the Leghorn tibia (line x age interaction, P < 0.0001). A precipitous drop in BMD occurred during an induced molt of Leghorns subjected to 10 d of feed withdrawal. Our long-term goal is to improve skeletal integrity in egg-type chickens by genetic selection for improved BMD. By crossing a broiler with an egg-laying line, an F2 resource population of birds has been developed to identify quantitative trait loci influencing BMD in chickens.

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