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Keywords:

  • maturation;
  • growth;
  • aging;
  • rabbit;
  • bone;
  • mechanical properties;
  • composition

Abstract

We characterized the composition and mechanical properties of cortical bone during maturation and growth and in adult life in the rabbit. We hypothesized that the collagen network develops earlier than the mineralized matrix. Growth was monitored, and the rabbits were euthanized at birth (newborn), and at 1, 3, 6, 9, and 18 months of age. The collagen network was assessed biochemically (collagen content, enzymatic and non-enzymatic cross-links) in specimens from the mid-diaphysis of the tibia and femur and biomechanically (tensile testing) from decalcified whole tibia specimens. The mineralized matrix was analyzed using pQCT and 3-point bend tests from intact femur specimens. The collagen content and the Young's modulus of the collagen matrix increased significantly until the rabbits were 3 months old, and thereafter remained stable. The amount of HP and LP collagen cross-links increased continuously from newborn to 18 months of age, whereas PEN cross-links increased after 6 months of age. Bone mineral density and the Young's modulus of the mineralized bone increased until the rabbits were at least 6 months old. We concluded that substantial changes take place during the normal process of development in both the biochemical and biomechanical properties of rabbit cortical bone. In cortical bone, the collagen network reaches its mature composition and mechanical strength prior to the mineralized matrix. © 2010 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 28:1626–1633, 2010