We used μCT and histomorphometry to assess age-related changes in bone architecture in male and female C57BL/6J mice. Deterioration in vertebral and femoral trabecular microarchitecture begins early, continues throughout life, is more pronounced at the femoral metaphysis than in the vertebrae, and is greater in females than males.
Introduction: Despite widespread use of mice in the study of musculoskeletal disease, the age-related changes in murine bone structure and the relationship to whole body BMD changes are not well characterized. Thus, we assessed age-related changes in body composition, whole body BMD, and trabecular and cortical microarchitecture at axial and appendicular sites in mice.
Materials and Methods: Peripheral DXA was used to assess body composition and whole body BMD in vivo, and μCT and histomorphometry were used to measure trabecular and cortical architecture in excised femora, tibia, and vertebrae in male and female C57BL/6J mice at eight time-points between 1 and 20 mo of age (n = 6–9/group).
Results: Body weight and total body BMD increased with age in male and female, with a marked increase in body fat between 6 and 12 mo of age. In contrast, trabecular bone volume (BV/TV) was greatest at 6–8 wk of age and declined steadily thereafter, particularly in the metaphyseal region of long bones. Age-related declines in BV/TV were greater in female than male. Trabecular bone loss was characterized by a rapid decrease in trabecular number between 2 and 6 mo of age, and a more gradual decline thereafter, whereas trabecular thickness increased slowly over life. Cortical thickness increased markedly from 1 to 3 mo of age and was maintained or slightly decreased thereafter.
Conclusions: In C57BL/6J mice, despite increasing body weight and total body BMD, age-related declines in vertebral and distal femoral trabecular bone volume occur early and continue throughout life and are more pronounced in females than males. Awareness of these age-related changed in bone morphology are critical for interpreting the skeletal response to pharmacologic interventions or genetic manipulation in mice.