Osteoporosis-related variations of trabecular bone properties of proximal human humeral heads at different scale lengths

Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
Molino Giulia, Dalpozzi Alessio, Ciapetti Gabriela, Lorusso Massimo, Novara Chiara, Cavallo Marco, Baldini Nicola, Giorgis Fabrizio, Fiorilli Sonia, Vitale-Brovarone Chiara

Osteoporosis (OP) is a skeletal disorder responsible for the weakening of the bone structure and, consequently, for an increased fracture risk in the elderly population. In the past, bone mineral density (BMD) variation was considered the best OP indicator, but recently the focus has shifted toward the variation of microstructural bone parameters. This work is based on the characterisation of 8-mm cylindrical biopsies harvested from proximal humeral heads belonging to healthy and osteoporotic patients, in order to assess the OP-related variations of bone properties at different scale lengths. In particular, bone biopsies underwent micro-computed tomography analysis to study the most relevant features of bone architecture and extrapolate the tissue mineral density (TMD) value of bone trabeculae. Compression tests and nanoindentations were performed to investigate the macro- and micromechanical properties of bone biopsies, respectively. In addition, XRD analyses were performed to obtain the mean hydroxyapatite (HA) crystallite size, while Raman spectroscopy investigated the collagen secondary structure. Thermogravimetric analysis was performed to evaluate the ratio between organic and inorganic phases. From the obtained results, OP samples showed a more anisotropic and less interconnected structure responsible for reduced compression strength. From this, it can be supposed that OP caused an alteration of bone structure that led to inferior macroscopic mechanical properties. Furthermore, OP samples possessed higher TMD and bigger HA crystals that are correlated to an increase of the hardness value obtained by means of nanoindentation. This less controlled HA crystal growth is probably due to an alteration of the organic matrix structure, as revealed by the increase of the random coil contribution in the Raman spectra of the OP bone. This higher crystal content led to an increase in trabecular density and hardness. In conclusion, the obtained data showed that OP affects bone properties at different scale lengths causing an alteration of its morphological, structural and mechanical features.