Size and habit of mineral particles in bone and mineralized callus during bone healing in sheep



Bone healing is known to occur through the successive formation and resorption of various tissues with different structural and mechanical properties. To get a better insight into this sequence of events, we used environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) together with scanning small-angle X-ray scattering (sSAXS) to reveal the size and orientation of bone mineral particles within the regenerating callus tissues at different healing stages (2, 3, 6, and 9 weeks). Sections of 200 µm were cut from embedded blocks of midshaft tibial samples in a sheep osteotomy model with an external fixator. Regions of interest on the medial side of the proximal fragment were chosen to be the periosteal callus, middle callus, intercortical callus, and cortex. Mean thickness (T parameter), degree of alignment (ρ parameter), and predominant orientation (ψ parameter) of mineral particles were deduced from resulting sSAXS patterns with a spatial resolution of 200 µm. 2D maps of T and ρ overlapping with ESEM images revealed that the callus formation occurred in two waves of bone formation, whereby a highly disordered mineralized tissue was deposited first, followed by a bony tissue with more lamellar appearance in the ESEM and where the mineral particles were more aligned, as revealed by sSAXS. As a consequence, degree of alignment and mineral particle size within the callus increased with healing time, whereas at any given moment there were structural gradients, for example, from periosteal toward the middle callus. © 2010 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.