Connective tissue research

Effects of fixation and demineralization on bone collagen D-spacing as analyzed by atomic force microscopy.

PMID 25634588


Collagen's role in bone is often considered secondary. As increased attention is paid to collagen, understanding the impact of tissue preservation is important in interpreting experimental results. The goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that bone fixation prior to demineralization would maintain its collagen ultrastructure in an undisturbed state when analyzed using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). The anterior diaphysis of a pig femur was cut into 6 mm pieces along its length. Samples were mounted, polished and randomly assigned to control or fixation groups (n = 5/group). Fixation samples were fixed for 24 h prior to demineralization. All samples were briefly demineralized to expose collagen, and imaged using AFM. Mouse tail tendons were also analyzed to explore effects of dehydration and fixation. Measurements from each bone sample were averaged and compared using a Mann-Whitney U-test. Tendon sample means were compared using RMANOVA. To investigate differences in D-spacing distributions, Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests were used. Fixation decreased D-spacing variability within and between bone samples and induced or maintained a higher average D-spacing versus control by shifting the D-spacing population upward. Tendon data indicate that fixing and drying samples leaves collagen near its undisturbed and hydrated native state. Fixation in bone prior to demineralization decreased D-spacing variability. D-spacing was shifted upward in fixed samples, indicating that collagen is stretched with mineral present and relaxes upon its removal. The ability to decrease variability in bone suggests that fixation might increase the power to detect changes in collagen due to disease or other pressures.