Microarchitectural and Physical Changes During Fetal Growth in Human Vertebral Bone


  • The authors have no conflict of interest.


The ossification process in human vertebra during the early stage of its formation was studied by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray microtomography (μCT) at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France. Twenty-two samples taken from vertebral ossification centers of human fetal bone (gestational age ranging between 16 and 26 weeks) were investigated. The analysis of three-dimensional images at high spatial resolution (∼10 and ∼2 μm) allows a detailed quantitative description of bone microarchitecture. A denser trabecular network was found in fetal bone compared with that of adult bone. The images evidenced a global isotropic structure clearly composed of two regions: a central region (trabecular bone) and a peripheral region (immature bone). XRD experiments evidenced hydroxyapatite-like crystalline structure in the mineral phase at any fetal age after 16 weeks. Interestingly, the analysis of XRD patterns highlighted the evolution of crystalline structure of mineralized bone as a function of age involving the growth of the hydroxyapatite crystallites.