High-resolution 3D imaging of osteocytes and computational modelling in mechanobiology: Insights on bone development, ageing, health and disease

P. M. Goggin, K. C. Zygalakis, R. O C Oreffo, Philipp Schneider*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Osteocytes are involved in mechanosensation and mechanotransduction in bone and hence, are key to bone adaptation in response to development, ageing and disease. Thus, detailed knowledge of the three-dimensional (3D) structure of the osteocyte network (ON) and the surrounding lacuno-canalicular network (LCN) is essential. Enhanced understanding of the ON&LCN will contribute to a better understanding of bone mechanics on cellular and sub-cellular scales, for instance through improved computational models of bone mechanotransduction. Until now, the location of the ON within the hard bone matrix and the sub-µm dimensions of the ON&LCN have posed significant challenges for 3D imaging. This review identifies relevant microstructural phenotypes of the ON&LCN in health and disease and summarises how light microscopy, electron microscopy and X-ray imaging techniques have been used in studies of osteocyte anatomy, pathology and mechanobiology to date. In this review, we assess the requirements for ON&LCN imaging and examine the state of the art in the fields of imaging and computational modelling as well as recent advances in high-resolution 3D imaging. Suggestions for future investigations using volume electron microscopy are indicated and we present new data on the ON&LCN using serial block-face scanning electron microscopy. A correlative approach using these high-resolution 3D imaging techniques in conjunction with in silico modelling in bone mechanobiology will increase understanding of osteocyte function and, ultimately, lead to improved pathways for diagnosis and treatment of bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-295
Number of pages32
JournaleCells and Materials Journal (eCM)
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • 3D imaging
  • Biomechanics
  • Lacuno-canalicular network
  • Mechanobiology
  • Mechanosensation
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Microscopy
  • Osteocyte
  • Osteoporosis


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