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J Struct Biol. 2011 Nov;176(2):159-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2011.08.003. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Fetal and postnatal mouse bone tissue contains more calcium than is present in hydroxyapatite.

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Department of Biomaterials, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Research Campus Golm, 14476 Potsdam, Germany.


It has been shown for developing enamel and zebrafish fin that hydroxyapatite (HA) is preceded by an amorphous precursor, motivating us to examine the mineral development in mammalian bone, particularly femur and tibia of fetal and young mice. Mineral particle thickness and arrangement were characterized by (synchrotron) small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) combined with wide-angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis. Simultaneous measurements of the local calcium content and the HA content via XRF and WAXD, respectively, revealed the total calcium contained in HA crystals. Interestingly, bones of fetal as well as newborn mice contained a certain fraction of calcium which is not part of the HA crystals. Mineral deposition could be first detected in fetal tibia at day 16.5 by environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM). SAXS revealed a complete lack of orientation in the mineral particles at this stage, whereas 1day after birth particles were predominantly aligned parallel to the longitudinal bone axis, with the highest degree of alignment in the midshaft. Moreover, we found that mineral particle length increased with age as well as the thickness, while fetal particles were thicker but much shorter. In summary, this study revealed strong differences in size and orientation of the mineral particles between fetal and postnatal bone, with bulkier, randomly oriented particles at the fetal stage, and highly aligned, much longer particles after birth. Moreover, a part of the calcium seems to be present in other form than HA at all stages of development.

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