Ontogenetic Patterning of Cortical Bone Microstructure and Geometry at the Human Mid-Shaft Femur



The bone growth process has long-lasting effects on adult bone structure and mechanical adaptation, yet the tissue level dynamics of growth are poorly studied. The specific aims of this study were to (1) quantify changes in bone size and shape through ontogeny, (2) describe the distribution of tissue types and patterns of cortical drift and expansion through ontogeny, and (3) explore relationships between cortical drift and ontogenetic variation geometric size and shape. The study utilized 14 juvenile (ages 2–19) mid-shaft femur blocks removed at autopsy from individuals who died suddenly. Eighty-μm-thick sections were imaged using polarized and brightfield microscopy. For descriptive purposes the sample was divided into five age groups. Features of collagen fiber matrix orientation, vascularity (e.g., pore orientation and density), and osteocyte lacunar density and shape were used to classify primary and secondary tissue types in LM images. This information, combined with evaluation of resorptive versus depositional bone surfaces, was used to identify cortical drift direction. A pattern of posterior and medial drift was identified at the mid-shaft femur in the toddler years. The drift pattern shifts antero-laterally in late childhood, predating the appearance of a more adult-like geometry. On the basis of the presence of transitional fibrolamellar bone complex, growth is more rapid during the toddler years and peri-puberty, and slower in early to late childhood and in later adolescence. Extensive variability in histological and geometric organization typifies the sample, particularly beginning in late childhood. The potential implications of this variability for adult fracture risk warrant further study. Anat Rec, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.