Fractal-like hierarchical organization of bone begins at the nanoscale

Natalie Reznikov, Matthew William Bilton, Leonardo Lari, M Stevens, Roland Kröger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The components of bone assemble hierarchically to provide stiffness and toughness. However, the organization and relationship between bone’s principal components—mineral and collagen—has not been clearly elucidated. Using three-dimensional electron tomography imaging and high-resolution two-dimensional electron microscopy, we demonstrate that bone mineral is hierarchically assembled beginning at the nanoscale: Needle-shaped mineral units merge laterally to form platelets, and these are further organized into stacks of roughly parallel platelets. These stacks coalesce into aggregates that exceed the lateral dimensions of the collagen fibrils and span adjacent fibrils as continuous, cross-fibrillar mineralization. On the basis of these observations, we present a structural model of hierarchy and continuity for the mineral phase, which contributes to the structural integrity of bone.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaao2189
Number of pages12
Issue number6388
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018

Bibliographical note

2017 © The Authors. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Bone Density
  • Bone Substitutes
  • Bone and Bones/chemistry
  • Calcification, Physiologic
  • Electron Microscope Tomography
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Nanostructures

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