Quantitative and qualitative bone imaging : A review of synchrotron radiation microtomography analysis in bone research

June 25, 2020

Yoshihiro Obata (1), Hrishikesh A. Bale (2), Harold S. Barnard (3), Dula Y. Parkinson (3), Tamara N. Alliston (4) Claire Acevedo (1,5)
Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 110, June 2020: 956-969. DOI: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2020.103887


Bone, Synchrotron microtomography, Bone quality, Bone fragility, Toughness


All levels of the unique, hierarchical structure of bone consisting of collagen and hydroxyapatite crystals at the nanoscale to osteon/lamellae structures at the microscale contribute to its characteristic toughness and material properties. Elements of bone’s density and size contribute to bone quantity (or bone mass), whereas elements of bone’s material composition, material properties, internal structure, and organization describe the quality of bone. Bone quantity and quality can be degraded by factors such as aging, disease, treatments, and irradiation, compromising its ability to resist fracture and sustain loading. Accessing the morphology and architecture of bone at the microscale to quantify microstructural features such as osteocyte lacunae and canals as well as assessing the degree of mineralization and path of crack propagation in bone provides crucial information on how these factors are influencing bone quantity and quality. Synchrotron radiation micro-computed tomography (SRµCT) was first used to assess bone structure at the end of the 1990’s. One of the main advantages of the technique is that it enables accurate three-dimensional (3D), non-destructive quantification of structure while traditional histomorphometry on histological sections is inherantly deestructive to the sample and two-dimensional (2D). Additionally, SRµCT uses monochromatic, high-flux X-ray beams with high-resolution optics to provide high resolution and high contrast of bone samples. This allows the quantification of small microstructural features (e.g. osteocyte lacunae, canals,trabeculae, microcracks) and direct grayvalue compositional mapping (e.g. mineral quantification, cementlines) with greater speed and fidelity than lab-based micro-computed tomography. In this article, we reviewhow SRµCT has been applied to bone research to elucidate the mechanisms by which bone aging, disease,and other factors affect bone fragility and resistance to fracture.

How Our Software Was Used

Dragonfly was used to process reconstructed SRµCT data to extract information about microstructure and crack propagation in bones.

Author Affiliation

(1) Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, 84112, USA.
(2) Carl Zeiss X-Ray Microscopy, Pleasanton, CA, 94588, USA.
(3) Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA.
(4) Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA, 94143, USA.
(5) Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, 84112, USA.