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Ann Nutr Metab. 1993;37(5):245-52.

Impaired mechanical strength of bone in experimental copper deficiency.

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School of Biomedical Engineering, University of Dundee, UK.


Copper, through its role as cofactor for lysyl oxidase, is essential for intra- and inter-molecular cross-links in collagen. Copper deficiency, in man and in animals, is associated with bone fragility ascribed to defective cross-links. To assess bone strength in copper-deficient animals, we designed a sensitive torsion-testing apparatus according to biomechanical considerations. Femora from 7 copper-deficient rats and from their pair-fed controls were tested in torsional loading until fracture. Significant decreases in the maximal sustained torque (t = 2.93, p < 0.05), in the ultimate angular deformation (t = 2.52, p < 0.05) and in the toughness (t = 2.88, p < 0.05) were demonstrated. In a complementary study, it was shown that the ash weight and the calcium content of the femora from the copper-deficient animals did not differ from those of the controls. It was likely, therefore, that the impaired mechanical strength was related to defects in the collagen component of bone.

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