The effects of estrogen deficiency and bisphosphonate treatment on tissue mineralisation and stiffness in an ovine model of osteoporosis.

While much research has been dedicated to understanding osteoporosis, the nature of mineral distribution and the mechanical property variation in diseased bone is poorly understood. The current study aimed to determine the effect of estrogen deficiency and bisphosphonate therapy on bone tissue properties using an ovine model of osteoporosis. Skeletally mature animals (4+ years) were divided into an ovariectomy group (ovx, n=20) and a non treatment control group (control, n=20). A zoledronic acid treated group was also included in which animals were estrogen deficient for 20 months prior to receiving treatment (Zol, n=4). Half of the control and ovx groups were euthanized 12 or 31 months post-operatively and all Zol animals were euthanised at 31 months. Individual trabeculae were removed from the proximal femur and were analysed at specific locations across the width of the trabeculae. The mineral content was measured using quantitative backscatter electron imaging and the modulus was measured using nanoindentation. The spatial distribution of tissue modulus and mineral content in bone from ovariectomised animals was similar to control. However, ovariectomy significantly reduced the overall mineral content and tissue modulus relative to the control group after 12 months. Interestingly, significant differences were not maintained 31 months post-OVX. Treatment with zoledronic acid increased the mineral content and tissue modulus relative to both the ovariectomised and control groups. Zoledronic acid was also found to alter the mineral and modulus gradients normally associated with healthy bone tissue. The current study provides evidence that both estrogen deficiency and zoledronic acid therapy significantly alter mineral content and the mechanical properties of trabecular tissue.