Preferred collagen fiber orientation in the human mid-shaft femur

Haviva M. Goldman, Timothy G. Bromage, C. David L. Thomas, John G. Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Collagen fiber orientation is one aspect of the microstructure of bone that influences its mechanical properties. While the spatial distribution of preferentially oriented collagen is hypothesized to reflect the effects of loading during the process of aging, its variability in a modern human sample is essentially unknown. In a large sample (n = 67) of autopsied adults, the variability of collagen fiber orientation in the mid-shaft femur was examined in relation to age and sex. Montaged images of entire 100 μm thick cross-sections were obtained using circularly polarized light microscopy (CPLM) under standardized illuminating conditions. An automated image-analyzing routine divided images into 48 segments according to anatomical position. Average gray values (varying with orientation) were quantified for each segment, and one-way ANOVA with Tukey HSD post hoc tests were applied to assess differences between segments. Collagen fiber orientation appeared to be nonrandomly distributed across the mid-shaft femur sample; however, no single "human" pattern was identified. Individual variation, unexplainable by age, sex, or body size, exceeded population-level trends. Differences between age and sex groups suggest there is a strong correspondence between collagen fiber orientation and tissue-type distributions. The minimal consistencies demonstrated here may reflect mechanical forces induced at the femoral mid-shaft. However, the myriad of other factors that may influence collagen fiber orientation patterning, including growth trajectories, metabolic and nutritional status, and disease states, must be explored further. Only then, in conjunction with studies of other structural and material properties of bone, will we be able to elucidate the linkages between microstructure and functional adaptation in the human mid-shaft femur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-445
Number of pages12
JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2003


  • Bone microstructure
  • Collagen fiber orientation
  • Human femur
  • Human variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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