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Fractal-like hierarchical organization of bone begins at the nanoscale

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Publication details

DateAccepted/In press - 8 Mar 2018
DatePublished (current) - 4 May 2018
Issue number6388
Original languageEnglish


The components of bone assemble hierarchically to provide stiffness and toughness. Yet, the organization and relationship between bone’s principal components ‒ mineral and collagen ‒ is not clearly elucidated. Using 3D electron tomography imaging, and high-resolution 2D 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 exceeding the lateral dimensions of the collagen fibrils, and spanning adjacent fibrils as continuous, cross-fibrillar mineralization. Based on these observations, we present a structural model of hierarchy and continuity for the mineral phase, which contributes to the structural integrity of bone.

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