Which stereologic methods offer the greatest help in quantifying trabecular structure from biological and mechanical perspectives?

Mitchell B. Schaffler, David A. Reimann, A. Michael Parfitt, and David P. Fyhrie

Forma, 12:197-207, 1997.

Trabecular bone is a complicated interconnected network of rods, plates, and sheets of lamellar bone tissue. Understanding its structure in terms of the elements that comprise the network and their architectural relationship to one another is key to understanding both the biological and mechanical attributes of trabecular bone in health and disease. Osteoblastic activities in trabecular bone occur on bone surfaces. Surface activities in turn regulate trabecular bone mass and architecture, parameters which have great importance to mechanical function. Bone histomorphometry, based on classical stereology, has been used effectively and extensively to characterize bone cell-surface activities. Beyone measuring bone volume, however, the architectural parameters which need to be measured, and accordingly, themorphometric tools which are needed to describe the mechanical properties of trabecular bone, are less clear. Histomorphoetric parameters designed to quantitate cell-surface activity do not yield direct information on the shapes of trabecular elements or architectural interrelationships, which are key factors influencing the mechanical properties of trabecular bone. Those stereological parameters used to predict mechanical properties of trabecular bone were not designed originally for that purpose. Applications of micro-computed tomography and micro-magnetic resonance imaging to trabecular bone provides three-dimensional data; to date morphometric descriptors from these data have been extrapolated from standard two-dimensional stereological applications. Availability of three-dimensional data presents an opportunity to extract new information about trabecular bone architecture, using morphometric tools designed specifically to measure relevant structural properties of trabecular bone.

Note: Figure 1 was featured as the journal cover illustration.

Copyright © 1997, David A. Reimann. All rights reserved.