High resolution imaging in bone tissue research-review

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This review article focuses on imaging of bone tissue to understand skeletal health with regards to bone quality. Skeletal fragility fractures are due to bone diseases such as osteoporosis which result in low bone mass and bone mineral density (BMD) leading to high risk of fragility fractures. Recent advances in imaging and analysis technologies have highly benefitted the field of biological sciences. In particular, their application in skeletal health has been of significant importance in understanding bone mechanical behavior (structure and properties) at the tissue level. While synchrotron based microCT technique has remained the gold standard for non-destructive evaluation of structure in material and biological sciences, several lab based microCT systems have been developed to provide high resolution imaging of specimens with greater access, and ease of use in laboratory settings. Lab based microCT scanners are widely used in the bone field as a standard tool to evaluate three-dimensional (3D) morphologies of bone structure at image resolutions appropriate for bone samples from small animals to bone biopsy specimens from humans. Both synchrotron and standard lab based microCT systems provide high resolution imaging ex vivo for a small sized specimen. A few X-ray based systems are also commercially available for in vivo scanning at relatively low image resolutions. Synchrotron-based CT microscopy is being used for various ultra-high-resolution image analyses using complex 3D software. However, the synchrotron-based CT technology is in high demand, allows only limited numbers of specimens, expensive, requires complex additional instrumentation, and is not easily available to researchers as it requires access to a synchrotron source which is always limited. Therefore, desktop laboratory scanners (microXCT, Zeiss/Xradia, Scanco, SkyScan. etc.), mimicking the synchrotron based CT technology or image resolution, have been developed to solve the accessibility issues. These lab based scanners have helped both material science, and the bone field to investigate bone tissue morphologies at submicron mage resolutions. Considerable progress has been made in both in vivo and ex vivo imaging towards providing high resolution images of bone tissue. Both clinical and research imaging technologies will continue to improve and help understand osteoporosis and other related skeletal issues in order to develop targeted treatments for bone fragility. This review summarizes the high resolution imaging work in bone research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115620
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Histology
  • Physiology


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