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Nanoscale changes in collagen are a tipoff to bone health
Date:12/22/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Using a technique that provides detailed images of nanoscale structures, researchers at the University of Michigan and Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital have discovered changes in the collagen component of bone that directly relate to bone health.

Their findings, published online Dec. 16 in the journal Bone, could lead to new methods of diagnosing osteoporosis and other diseases affecting collagen-containing tissues.

Bone is a composite material made up of a flexible collagen matrix impregnated with and surrounded by a stiffer, stronger mineral component. Though much is known about the importance of bone health to overall health, there's a critical lack of knowledge about the sub-microscopic structure of bone and how collagen and mineral---and the interactions between them---contribute to properties of healthy and diseased bone.

"Our initial question was, could we discover more about the nanoscale structure of the collagen in bone, using the technique of atomic force microscopy," said Mark Banaszak Holl, a U-M professor with joint appointments in chemistry and macromolecular science and engineering.

The atomic force microscope, one of the most valuable tools for imaging, measuring and manipulating matter at the nanoscale level, works something like a phonograph with a motion detector attached to its needle. As the tip systematically moves across a bumpy surface, the motion detector records its every movement. The result is a three-dimensional image of the surface's contours.

Using such an instrument, the researchers were able to see and measure key features of collagen fibrils in mouse bone. Each collagen fibril is made up of many individual collagen molecules packed together in a staggered array that resembles a railroad track.

"For each fibril, we measured the mean spacing of the 'railroad track' cross hatches," said post doctoral associate Joseph Wallace, the paper's lead author. W
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Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert  

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