Fragility of Bone Material Controlled by Internal Interfaces
Sodium fluoride (NaF), which stimulates bone formation, and bisphosphonates, which reduce bone resorption, are both used in the treatment of osteoporosis, and are binding to bone mineral. In this study, using small-angle X-ray scattering and backscattered electron imaging, we analyzed the bone mineral in the vertebrae of minipigs treated with fluoride, with the bisphosphonate alendronate (ALN), or with vehicle. All specimens were investigated blindly. A slight increase in the average thickness of the mineral crystals as well as changes in the structure of the mineral/collagen composite were found in the case of fluoride-treated animals. No differences were found between ALN-treated animals and controls. The changes produced by fluoride are in the same direction as seen in bones from patients treated with NaF, albeit much smaller. They also correlate quantitatively with the reduction in biomechanical properties of bone in fluoride-treated minipigs found in an earlier study with the same animals. These findings suggest that small changes in the structure of the mineral/collagen composite in bone may considerably affect its biomechanical properties. It also emphasizes the delicate balance between the increase of bone mass and deterioration of bone material properties for the effect of fluoride on the biomechanical properties of bone.