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Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2009 Jul;5(7):373-81. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2009.107.

Hierarchical microimaging of bone structure and function.

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Institute for Biomechanics, Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


With recent advances in molecular medicine and disease treatment in osteoporosis, quantitative image processing of three-dimensional bone structures is critical in the context of bone quality assessment. Biomedical imaging technology such as MRI or CT is readily available, but few attempts have been made to expand the capabilities of these systems by integrating quantitative analysis tools and by exploring structure-function relationships in a hierarchical fashion. Nevertheless, such quantitative end points are an important factor for success in basic research and in the development of novel therapeutic strategies. CT is key to these developments, as it images and quantifies bone in three dimensions and provides multiscale biological imaging capabilities with isotropic resolutions of a few millimeters (clinical CT), a few tens of micrometers (microCT) and even as high as 100 nanometers (nanoCT). The technology enables the assessment of the relationship between microstructural and ultrastructural measures of bone quality and certain diseases or therapies. This Review focuses on presenting strategies for three-dimensional approaches to hierarchical biomechanical imaging in the study of microstructural and ultrastructural bone failure. From this Review, it can be concluded that biomechanical imaging is extremely valuable for the study of bone failure mechanisms at different hierarchical levels.

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