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Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 1998 Feb;44(1):117-27.

A method for examining the chemical basis for bone disease: synchrotron infrared microspectroscopy.

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Center for Synchrotron Biosciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and The National Synchrotron Light Source, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973, USA.


Infrared microspectroscopy combines microscopy and spectroscopy for the purpose of chemical microanalysis. Light microscopy provides a way to generate and record magnified images and visibly resolve microstructural detail. Infrared spectroscopy provides a means for analyzing the chemical makeup of materials. Combining light microscopy and infrared spectroscopy permits the correlation of microstructure with chemical composition. Inherently, the long wavelengths of infrared radiation limit the spatial resolution of the technique. However, synchrotron infrared radiation significantly improves both the spectral and spatial resolution of an infrared microspectrometer, such that data can be obtained with high signal-to-noise at the diffraction limit, which is 3-5 microm in the mid-infrared region. In this study, we use infrared microspectroscopy to study the chemical composition of bone using two mapping methods. In the osteon method, linear maps are collected from the center of an osteon (newer bone) to the periphery (older bone) and their chemical compositions are compared. In the transverse method, applied specifically to subchondral bone, line maps are collected from the edge of the articular cartilage (older bone) to the marrow space (newer bone). A significant advantage of infrared microspectroscopy over other chemical methods is that the bone does not need to be homogenized for testing; we are able to study cross-sectional samples of bone in situ at a resolution better than 5 microm and compare the results with morphological findings on stained serial sections immediately adjacent to those examined by infrared microspectroscopy. The infrared absorption bands of bone proteins and mineral are sensitive to mineral content (i.e. carbonate, phosphate, acid phosphate), mineral crystallinity and the content/nature of the organic matrix. In this study, they are analyzed as a function of (1) age, i.e. distance with respect to the center of an osteon, and (2) morphology, i.e. cortical versus cancellous (notably subchondral) bone. Results show that the protein/mineral ratio is higher in younger bone. As bone matures, mineralization increases, as does carbonate substitution into the hydroxyapatite lattice. Finally, most of the changes in chemical composition of bone occur within 20 microm of the site of new bone growth, e.g. the center of an osteon, demonstrating the need for the high spatial resolution achieved only with the use of a synchrotron infrared source.

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