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A Sectioning, Coring, and Image Processing Guide for High-Throughput Cortical Bone Sample Procurement and Analysis for Synchrotron Micro-CT

NCJ Number
Jove-Journal of Visualized Experiments Issue: 160 Dated: 2020
Date Published

This project used a geological (coring) sampling protocol to procure cortical bone specimens of uniform size for SRµCT experiments from the anterior aspect of human femora, a method that is minimally destructive, efficient, and results in cylindrical specimens that minimize imaging artifacts from irregular sample shapes while improving microarchitectural visualization and analysis.


Bone is a dynamic and mechanically active tissue that changes in structure over the human lifespan. The products of the bone remodeling process have been studied substantially using traditional two-dimensional techniques. Recent advancements in X-ray imaging technology via desktop micro-computed tomography (µCT) and synchrotron radiation micro-computed tomography (SRµCT) have enabled the acquisition of high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) scans of a larger field of view (FOV) than other 3D imaging techniques (e.g., SEM), providing a more complete picture of microscopic structures within human cortical bone. The specimen should be accurately centered within the FOV, however, to limit the appearance of streak artifacts known to impact data analysis. Previous studies have reported procurement of irregularly shaped rectilinear bone blocks that result in imaging artifacts due to uneven edges or image truncation. The current project applied a geological sampling protocol (coring) to procure consistently sized cortical bone core specimens for SRµCT experiments from the anterior aspect of human femora. This coring method is efficient and minimally destructive to tissue. It creates uniform cylindrical samples that decrease imaging artifacts by nature of being isometric during rotation and providing a uniform path length for X-ray beams throughout scanning. Image processing of X-ray tomographic data of cored and irregularly shaped samples confirms the potential of the technique to improve visualization and analysis of cortical bone microarchitecture. A goal of this protocol is to deliver a reliable and repeatable method for the extraction of cortical bone cores that is adaptable for various types of high-resolution bone imaging experiments. An overarching goal of the work is to create a standardized cortical bone procurement for SRµCT that is affordable, consistent, and straightforward. This procedure may further be adapted by researchers in related fields who commonly evaluate hard composite materials, such as in biological anthropology, geosciences, or material sciences. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020