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Patterns of skeletal histologic change through timeComparison of an archaic native american population with modern populations.

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THE ANATOMICAL RECORD 226:307-313 (1990)
Patterns of Skeletal Histologic Change Through
Time: Comparison of an Archaic Native American
Population With Modern Populations
DAVID E. BURR, CHRISTOPHER B. RUFF, AND DAVID D. THOMPSON
Department of Anatomy and Orthopedic Research Laboratory, West Virginia University
Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, West Virginia (DJ3.B.); Department of Cell Biology
and Anatomy, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
(C.B.R.); Bone Biology and Osteoporosis, Merck, Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories,
West Point, Pennsylvania (D.D.T.)
ABSTRACT
This paper compares patterns of histologic change in a n archaic
Native American population with those in modern white populations. Histologic
sections were removed from core biopsies taken from the anterior femoral cortex of
a n archeologic sample of Pecos Indians. The data demonstrate many microstructural similarities between the Pecos and modern populations, even though they
were genetically and culturally distinct. Pecos women had small Haversian canals
and large osteon mean wall thickness, with no clear evidence of a n intracortical
bone volume deficit even in the older age groups, although significant marrow
cavity expansion occurred in both males and females with age. No striking relationships were found between bone tissue changes and gross geometric changes
with age. The data suggest that a more active life-style is associated with greater
osteon mean wall thickness or osteon population density, but that it alone does not
protect against significant bone loss on the cortical-endosteal surface.
Patterns of cortical bone loss in aging men and
women have been well-documented in modern populations (Garn, 1970; Martin and Atkinson, 1977; Martin
et al., 1980; Riggs et al., 1982,1983; Riggs and Melton,
1986). There is substantial evidence that such changes
occurred in pre- and protohistoric communities a s well
(Van Gerven e t al., 1969; Van Gerven, 1973; Carlson et
al., 1976; Eriksen, 1976), although the rate, pattern,
and severity of bone loss apparently varies significantly by population (Moldawer et al., 1965; Nordin,
1966; Armelagos, 1969; Dewey et al., 1969a,b; Solomon, 1979; Perzigian, 1973; Mazess and Mather,
1975; Eriksen, 1976; Ruff and Hayes, 1982, 1988;
Harper et al., 1984; Evers et al., 1985; Martin et al.,
1985).
Populational differences in the maintenance or loss
of bone mass partly reflect the interaction of environmental and cultural factors with the Basic Multicellular Unit-based remodeling system (Armelagos, 1969;
Van Gerven, 1973; Larsen, 1981; Richman et al., 1979;
Ruff, 1987). The effects of these nongenetic factors can
be observed in differences in the size, geometry, and
number of osteons. As such, interpopulation comparison of histological structure can shed light on differences in rates and patterns of loss that may result from
culturally based causes and allows us to define the limits of human population variability.
Bone loss in modern populations is compensated by
geometric changes that maintain bone ridigity in
males but do not fully compensate for bone loss in females (Smith and Walker, 1964, 1980; Epker and
Frost, 1965; Martin and Atkinson, 1977; Ruff and
Hayes, 1988). Structural compensatory changes have
0 1990 WILEY-LISS, INC.
been documented in both males and females in archaic
populations (Ruff and Hayes, 1982).
Burr and Martin (1983) suggested that material
property changes may supplement these structural adaptations. Material property compensations would involve alterations in histologic structure, especially differences in the size, distribution, or rate of
accumulation of osteons and their canals and in the
additional porosity resulting from this history of remodeling activity. Because these changes have their
basis in the remodeling system, i t is a significant question whether the geometrical compensations that have
been observed are related to the histological changes
that affect tissue material properties.
The purpose of this study is to compare changes in a n
archaic Native American population with those in
modern white populations. This study 1)compares agerelated patterns of histologic change in a n archaic human population with modern U S . and British populations; 2) assesses sexual dimorphisms in histologic
structure; and 3) examines whether micro- and macrostructural adaptations to aging are related.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study Population
The Pecos Indians were a n agricultural community
that lived in north-central New Mexico between the
Received April 19, 1989; accepted J u n e 20, 1989.
Address reprint requests to David B. Burr, Department of Anatomy, Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN 46223.
308
D.B. BURR ET AL.
14th and 19th centuries. As a study population, this
group has the advantage over modern populations of
being a closed and stable society in which everyone had
equal access to environmental and cultural resources.
This increases the uniformity of skeletal growth and
remodeling and limits the large interindividual variability found in modern groups. No evidence of serious
malnutrition or food shortages has ever been detected
in the Pecos Indians. The study population is described
more fully by Ruff and Hayes (1983a).
Comparative data for modern white populations was
derived from the literature. These sample populations
were composed of individuals from the United States
and Great Britain. One sample population (Georgia e t
al., 1982) was of Eastern European extraction. (The
number, sex, and age range for individuals in each population is listed in Table 1.)
7. porosity, (Nh X &)/A,
8. percent osteonal refilling
=
(A,
-
Ah)/A,
An active surface area electronic digitizer (RP 622B,
Talos Systems, Inc.) was used to collect boundary coordinates from complete cross sections cut from the femoral midshaft adjacent to the core sample. Cross-sectional geometric properties were calculated from these
coordinates using the SLICE Fortran program
(Nagurka and Hayes, 1980). This program divides a
total area into a series of trapezoids or rectangles, then
adds or subtracts these areas to determine the areas
and area moments of the entire cross section. The
method of sectioning, orienting, and measuring these
sections is described by Ruff and Hayes (1983a). Geometric measurements included
9. cortical area, mm2, the area of bone within the
periosteum
Femora from 27 females (22-60 years) and 28 males
10. total area, mm’, the entire area (bone and mar(21-60 years) were selected for analysis. Sex and age at row cavity) within the periosteum
11. principal cross-sectional moments of inertia (or
death were determined from pelvic morphology, dental
wear, and endocranial suture closure (Ruff, 1981). second moments of the area), I,,
and Imin,mm4. Any
There was no significant difference in mean age be- individual cross-sectional moment is defined by the
tween males (x = 40.1 s 2.4) and females (% = 39.6 & general equation
2.7). A diaphyseal bone corer mounted in a high-speed
I, =
n2 d ~ = n12AA,,
Dremel drill was used to remove cores 4.0 mm in diameter from the entire thickness of the anterior cortex
of the femur exactly at midshaft. Bone density (g/cm3) where n is the perpendicular distance from a defined
and I,,, are the largest
was calculated from the wet core weight and the core axis to a unit of area, A. I,,
moments
that
can
be
calculated
about any axis through
volume, the latter derived from core diameter and
the section and are proportional to the maximum and
length (Thompson, 1979).
Using a Buehler Isomet saw, sections approximately minimum bending ridigity of a bone a t the cross-sec90 pm thick were cut from the core in a plane parallel tional level analyzed
12. polar moment of inertia, in mm4, defined by the
to the core’s length (i.e., transverse to the long axis of
the femur). The sections were hand ground to 80 pm equation
thick, mounted on glass slides, and left unstained.
Sample Preparation
I,
1
Measurements
Osteonal dimensions were measured on the entire
sectioned core at 125 x using a HiPad digitizing tablet
and Bioquant image analysis software (R & M Biometrics, Nashville, TN). Only secondary osteons with complete canals were counted. The following variables
were measured:
where r is the distance from the centroid of a cross
section to a unit of area, A. This is proportional to the
torsional rigidity of a bone at the cross-sectional level
analyzed and is equal to the sum of any two crosssectional moments of inertia.
Because geometric variables are related to body
weight, size adjustments were made by dividing area
1.the number (No),mean individual cross-sectional measurements by femoral length2 and cross-sectional
area (A,, mm2), and mean individual perimeter (PO, moments by length4, following a previous study (Ruff,
mm) of secondary osteons
1984). Non-normalized “raw” data have been published
2. the number (Nh), mean individual cross-sectional elsewhere (Ruff and Hayes, 1983a,b).
area (Ah, mm’), and mean individual perimeter (Ph,
RESULTS
mm) of Haversian canals of secondary osteons
Osteon Dimensions in Pecos and Modern Populations
3. sample area (As, mm2)
Table 1 compares mean individual osteon dimenOsteon fragments were not counted, so the absolute sions of the femoral midshaft in the Pecos population
rate of past bone turnover will be underestimated for with those collected from modern populations. Mean
the Pecos population. Several variables were derived individual osteon areas and Haversian canal areas are
from the measurements:
on the low end of the modern range, but do not differ
much from values found in modern populations even
4. osteonal mean wall thickness (MWT) = 2 x though the average age of the Pecos population is
(A, - &)/(PO + Ph), mm
younger than that of the modern populations (Table 1).
5. osteon population density (OPD) = N,/A,,
When compared with individuals of similar age (i.e.,
no./mm2
<60 years; Table 1)the magnitude of A, and Ah in the
6. percent of cortex composed of secondary osteons, Pecos population shows even greater similarity to modpercent osteonal bone, (A, x NJA,
ern white populations. Osteonal mean wall thicknesses
309
SKELETAL HISTOLOGIC CHANGE THROUGH TIME
TABLE 1. Comparison of osteonal dimensions in femoral midshaft: Pecos vs. modern populations'
Reference
Frost (196 1)
Currey (1964)
A0
(mm2)
Ah
(mm2)
.05l4
.0344
Ml 1
,035
,036
.0474
.045
.0290
.00504
.00454
,0050
.0032
.00274
,0021
,043
,0051
,041
,028
.034'
,041'
M/42
-
.0304
Jowsey (1966)
Martin et al. (1980)
Evans (1976, 1977)
Pecos population,
this study
Singh and Gunberg (1970)
Thompson (1980)
Georgia et al. (1982)
-
.0023'
,0024'
-
.00154
-
.0060
,0070
.0041
.0063
.00374
-
SexINo.
Ml8
F111
M16
Fi5
?I26
?I?
Ml35
Ml35
Ml28
Fl23
Ml33, F17
Ml54
Fl36
range
(years)
53
36-81
23-89
<60
<60
20-90
<60
37-96
36-75
36-75
21-60
22-60
40-88
age
(years)
53.0
52.8
60.9
43.5
40.0
?
?
Femur, midshaft
69.3
41.5
Femur, midshaft
Femur, region?
71.0
40.1
39.6
62.3
30-97
72
Fl7
50-59
50-59
M/?
?
?
?
?
M/4
Bone,
region3
Femur, region?
Femur, midshaft
Femur, midshaft
ant. cort.
Femur, midshaft
ant. cort.
Femur, midshaft
ant. cort.
Femur, mid 113
'Where possible, age subgroups have been extracted from published data to provide a better comparison with data from the Pecos sample
opulation. For clarity, standard errors for data taken from the literature are not included in this table.
!Standard errors: male A,, .001846; male Ah, ,000171; female A, .001893; female A, .000171.
3Except where specified, the entire cortex at the level examined was included in the measurements.
4Calculated from diameter.
osteal apposition (P < .01; Table 41, both of which
would tend to reduce OPD. In contrast to males, osteon
size did not change with age in females. These observations suggest a n age-associated increase in remodeling activity (i.e., greater osteonal activation frequency)
Sex Differences in Osteon Dimensions
coupled with greater individual cell-level osteoclastic
Females in the Pecos population had larger osteons activity in females to replace large osteons lost by cor(P < .02) and greater osteonal MWT (P < .02) than tical-endosteal resorption with as many equally large
males, though Haversian canals were not larger (Table osteons.
2). Because of the smaller osteons, OPD is greater in
Osteon population density was inversely related (P <
males than in females (P < .06).This implies a history .05) in males to the external shape of the bone, as deof greater remodeling activity in the male femoral cor- termined by the ratio ImaX/I,in. In other words, the
tex. No sex differences were found in percent osteonal rounder the cross section, the greater the OPD. In ferefilling.
males, a rounder cross section was associated with
smaller Haversian canals. Percent osteonal bone was
Aging Changes in Osteon Dimensions
negatively correlated with the polar moment of inertia
Mean Haversian canal size increased by 36% in fe- and with total cross-sectional area in Pecos females (P
males over the 40 year age range, resulting in a 48% < .08 and P < .07, respectively). Porosity was posiincrease in porosity (Table 3). Because of large individ- tively associated with I,,
(P < .02).
ual variation, statistical significance could not be demonstrated. There was no significant decline in either
Relationships Among Microstructural Measurements
density or percent osteon refilling with age (Table 3).
In males osteons became smaller by 26%with age (P
Imbalances between intracortical bone resorption
< .025) but this did not result in greater osteon density and formation were not found at the tissue level in this
in older males. The percent of cortex remodeled to sec- sample, although a n imbalance did exist on the cortiondary osteonal bone declined by nearly 25% with age cal-endosteal surface (Table 4). Smaller osteons con(Table 3). Resorption along the marrow cavity both de- tained smaller Haversian canals in both males and fecreases OPD and skews the osteon population toward males (r2 = .26 and .19, respectively, P < .05). As
smaller sizes a s larger osteons are generally found expected, larger Haversian canals were significantly (P
closer to the cortical-endosteal surface. There was sig- < .01) correlated with greater porosity, as was the pernificant cortical-endosteal resorption in males with age centage of cortex that was remodeled (males, r2= .23, P
(P < .01; Table 4), perhaps partially accounting for the < .02; females, r 2 = .48, P < .01). Both canal size (a
measure of relative bone formation) and canal number
observed changes in osteon size and number.
In females, OPD increased even in the face of signif- (a measure of activation frequency) contributed to
icant cortical-endosteal resorption (P < .01) and peri- changes in bone porosity.
in the femurs of individuals younger than 60 years
from modern populations averages between 72 pm
(Currey, 1964) and 84 pm (Jowsey, 1966). MWT in Pecos males and females falls within this range (Table 2).
310
D.B. BURR ET AL
TABLE 2. Sexual dimorphism in femoral osteonal dimensions
Males
x
34,345*
2,267
668.10*
161.03
76.10*
93.26
7.26**
24.40
1.61
1.98
Mean osteon area, A, (pm2)
Mean canal area, Ah @m2)
Mean osteon perimeter, PO,(km)
Mean canal perimeter, P h , (km)
Mean wall thickness, MWT (km)
Percent osteon refilling
Osteon pop. density, OPD (/mm2)
Percent osteonal bone
Porosity
Densitv (n/cm3)
Females
S.E.
t
40,778*
2,404
733.26*
167.84
84.15"
93.99
6.40**
25.79
1.54
1.98
1.846
171
17.32
4.75
12.42
2.08
0.29
1.30
0.12
0.10
S.E.
1.858
171
17.29
5.39
11.56
1.99
0.35
1.59
0.13
0.15
*P < .02.
**P < .06
TABLE 3. Age cohort means: Microstructural data
Sex
Female
Age
(years)
No.
20-29
7
30-39
10
40-49
3
250
7
20-29
6
30-39
10
40 -49
6
250
6
Change'
Canal
area
(w2)
Osteon
area
(km2)
Osteon
density
(no./mm2)
Percent
osteonal
bone
Porosity
(%I
Density
(gicrn)
2,004
(227)
2,404
(840)
2,852
(1,138)
2,613
(959)
+ 36%
36,354
(7,582)
45,817
(10,635)
36,096
(2,669)
40,010
(7,634)
+ 2%
6.33
(1.35)
5.53
(0.82)
7.06
(2.01)
6.93
(2.18)
+ 11%
22.88
(6.75)
25.97
(8.02)
25.01
(5.33)
27.50
(9.04)
+ 9%
1.26
(0.24)
1.45
(0.70)
1.84
(0.53)
1.82
(0.82)
+ 48%
2.02
(0.14)
2.02
(0.12)
1.86
(0.16)
1.95
(0.17)
-3%
2,079
(463)
2,374
(925)
2,278
(529)
2,265
(1,258)
+ 6%
40,736
(9,346)
34,935
(10,957)
30,432
(4,687)
30,882
(6,000)
- 26%
6.80
(1.20)
7.43
(1.50)
7.45
(1.66)
7.26
(1.49)
+ 2%
27.33
(6.75)
25.24
(7.28)
22.30
(4.53)
22.19
(5.69)
-23%
1.38
(0.29)
1.73
(0.67)
1.69
(0.50)
1.57
(0.71)
+ 3%
2.05
(0.06)
1.98
(0.09)
1.93
(0.08)
1.98
(0.14)
- 7%
Male
Change'
'Percent change calculated as (b
X
age range)/(20-29 years cohort), where b is the regression slope, and the age range is 40 years.
DISCUSSION
Sexual Dimorphism in Bone Microstructure
In modern populations females have larger Haversian canals in the femoral midshaft, but males have
more canals (Thompson, 1980). The same was found
in the Pecos population, although the differences between males and females were not statistically significant. The observation that canal size is larger
throughout life in women than men argues against
the possibility raised by Thompson (1980) that sex
differences in canal size detected in modern populations reflect sampling distributions, which are generally weighted toward the older age ranges. No sex-related differences in osteon size have been reported for
modern populations, though this was the strongest
microstructural sexual dimorphism in Pecos individuals.
Although osteon sizes in Pecos Indians and modern
white populations are comparable, Haversian canal
area in Pecos men and women averaged about half that
found in modern groups (Table 1). Part of the reason for
this may have been the relatively younger age a t death
of individuals in the Pecos sample population. Although the smaller canals imply a greater volume of
bone formed per remodeling unit in Pecos Indians than
in modern whites, a feature consistent with the more
active life-style of the Pecos society (Ruff and Hayes,
1983a,b), MWT in the Pecos population fell within the
modern range.
The number of osteons in a section is a function of
both the remodeling rate and the mean tissue age
(MTA) of a region of bone (Frost, 1987a,b). Assuming
equivalence of MTA in Pecos males and females, the
greater OPD in males may imply more frequent activation of remodeling and more rapid bone turnover and
may also reflect the more physically active tasks required of males in this population. It is also possible
that sex-specific differences in types of behaviors, e.g.,
more extensive long distance running in males (Ruff
and Hayes, 1983b1, would differentially load the ante-
31 1
SKELETAL HISTOLOGIC CHANGE THROUGH TIME
TABLE 4. Age cohort means: Geometric data
Sex
Female
Age
(yea r s1
No.
20-29
7
30-39
10
40-49
3
250
7
20-29
6
30-39
10
40-49
6
250
6
Change3
Cortical
area'
Medullary
area'
Total
area'
Inlax2
2.17
(0.29)
2.24
(0.21)
1.78
(0.20)
2.11
(0.25)
-6%
0.69
(0.12)
0.78
(0.14)
1.29
(0.42)
1.13
(0.25)
+ 80%
2.85
(0.36)
3.03
(0.24)
3.07
(0.22)
3.24
(0.16)
+ 15%
7.15
(1.82)
7.73
(1.31)
7.11
(1.04)
8.17
(1.27)
+ 15%
5.51
(1.36)
6.21
(1.00)
5.57
(0.19)
6.70
(0.78)
+ 22%
1.29
(0.11)
1.25
(0.16)
1.28
(0.22)
1.22
(0.18)
- 5%
2.15
(0.12)
2.33
(0.28)
2.07
(0.16)
2.09
(0.29)
- 8%
0.75
(0.09)
0.81
(0.17)
0.91
(0.18)
1.02
(0.28)
+ 43%
2.90
(0.12)
3.14
(0.25)
2.98
(0.08)
3.11
(0.09)
+ 5%
7.42
(1.05)
8.84
(1.36)
7.74
(0.89)
8.59
(1.32)
+ 9%
5.33
(0.82)
6.27
(1.18)
5.30
(0.48)
5.55
(0.55)
- 2%
1.42
(0.32)
1.44
(0.22)
1.47
(0.26)
1.56
(0.30)
+ 9%
Irnin'
Imdmin
Male
Change3
'Normalized for body weight by dividing by femoral length2. All values x 103.
'Normalized for body weight by dividing by femoral length4. All values x 107.
3Percent change calculated as (b x age rangeM20-29 years cohort), where b is the regression slope, and the age range is 40 years.
rior cortex of the femoral midshaft, supporting Ruff's
hypothesis (1988) that greater AP bending of the femur
occurred in males.
Aging Changes in Bone Microstructure
Porosity is a function of the number of Haversian
canals and their size (Atkinson, 1964). Various investigators have shown t h a t increased intracortical femoral porosity in males and females is the result of increased numbers of canals (Currey, 1964; Singh and
Gunberg, 1970; Kerley, 1965; Evans, 1977; Martin et
al., 19801, increased mean canal area (Aoji, 1959;
Jowsey, 1966) or both (Thompson, 1978,1980). A large
but statistically insignificant age-related intracortical
porosity increase was observed in Pecos females, but
not in males. No significant change in density was
found in either sex. Haversian canal dimensions increased with age in Pecos females, but MWT did not
change. Thus the volume of bone formed per bone
structural unit (BSU) (Jaworski, 1976; Parfitt, 19831,
or osteon, did not change with age in women. Significant intracortical bone loss in modern populations usually does not occur prior to the seventh decade in females and the ninth decade in males (Martin et al.,
1980; Riggs et al., 1983). It is not surprising, therefore,
that there is no clear evidence of intracortical bone loss
in the Pecos population in the age ranges studied (2060 years).
On the other hand, significant age-associated bone
loss along the cortical-endosteal surface of the femur
occurred in both men and women (Table 4). Significant
loss on this bone surface is generally associated with
postmenopausal osteoporotic change, whereas intracortical loss is mainly a function of aging (i.e., senile or
type I1 osteoporosis) (Riggs et al., 1983). It is unusual in
modern populations for significant marrow cavity expansion at the femoral midshaft to occur in active men
in middle age, although expansion a t the metaphyses
of the long bones occurs slowly. This observation suggests that elements of life-style or environment do not
prevent some cortical-endosteal loss of bone.
The size of osteons decreases with age in the femora
of Pecos Indian males, resulting in decreased MWT
with age. This is consistent with observations made by
others for modern male femora (Evans, 1977; Martin e t
al., 1980). Currey (1964) observed reduced osteon size
with age in a population including both men and
women, and the observation has been made for other
bones as well (Landeros and Frost, 1964; Jowsey, 1966;
Hattner et al., 1964). This may be due to the greater
probability that large osteons will be remodeled, eventually resulting in a population of smaller osteons (Takahashi et al., 1965). Curiously, however, no change in
osteon size with age was found in Pecos females. This
observation argues against the hypothesis that the
change in osteon size with age is dependent solely on
the probability of remodeling larger osteons, because
average osteon size in women was larger than that in
men, except for the youngest age cohort. Martin et al.
(1980) suggest that a decreased osteon area without a n
accompanying change in Haversian canal area implies
that both osteoclasts and osteoblasts are less active or
fewer in older individuals.
Compensatory Relationships Among Histologic and
Geometric Changes
Many significant or near-significant correlations between microstructural morphology and gross geometry
suggest the possibility that compensatory relationships
exist between the two. In some cases, the relationship
may be related to the aging process. The positive association of porosity and I,,
in females suggests that
loss of bone mass with age is compensated by increased
312
D.B. BURR ET AL.
bending rigidity as a function of periosteal expansion
(Table 4).The inverse association of percent osteonal
bone with J and total area reflect the same process.
Total area and J increase by addition of primary lamellar bone to the periosteal surface, which occurs simultaneously with the loss of bone cortical-endosteally. Because the oldest and most highly remodeled bone is
along the cortical-endosteal surface, the net effect is to
reduce the amount of cortex that is composed of secondary osteons. All of these changes reflect the overall
adaptation of the skeleton to peri- and postmenopausal
bone loss in women in this population. The relationship
among these variables is complex, but confining the
examination of bone only to gross geometric or only to
microstructural factors may overlook the complete
spectrum of bone adaptation to its environment.
Material Property Compensations With Age
The effects of age on bone material properties are
generally considered the result of increased porosity,
changes in mineralization, or more subtle ultrastructural characteristics such as collagen cross-linking.
Burr and Martin (1983) calculated the shear modulus
for the distal radius and proposed that as women lose
bone with age, the shear modulus increases in partial
compensation. The increased shear modulus was difficult to explain solely on the basis of changes in porosity
or mineralization of the bone.
There is evidence that changes in osteon numbers
and dimensions also affect material properties. Reduced osteon diameters and increased osteon density (if
sufficient to offset the effects of the increased porosity
that results from more osteons) should improve the fatigue properties of bone (Martin and Burr, 1989). A
large number of small diameter osteons increases energy absorption prior to fracture in a bone (Moyle et al.,
1978; Moyle and Bowden, 1984). As osteon diameter
increases, the work-to-fracture declines, but increases
again when osteons reach diameters greater than 200
pm. Fatigue processes in bone are inhibited by large
osteons and by increased osteon population density
(Corondan and Haworth, 1986).
According to these data, osteons are large enough in
the Pecos population to impart significant fatigue-inhibiting properties to the bone. The slightly larger osteons in women might provide enhanced energy absorption, but men could make up for slightly smaller
osteons by having a greater osteon population density.
The significant decrease with age in osteon size coupled
with increased OPD might further enhance the bone’s
energy absorbing qualities. Both men and women in
this population have bone tissue that is microstructurally well-suited to intense physical activity.
CONCLUSIONS
Although the Pecos Indians were genetically, culturally, and nutritionally distinct from white populations
residing in the United States today, they demonstrate
many skeletal microstructural similarities with modern populations in the age range 20-60 years. These
include similarities in osteon size and mean wall thickness, larger Haversian canals in women but increased
osteon population density in men, and age-related reduction of osteon size in men without increased Haversian canal size. Differences between the populations
are relatively small and contain substantial statistical
uncertainty. The most remarkable difference between
populations was the small Haversian canal size in Pecos women, perhaps indicating a greater volume of
bone per remodeling unit. The greater OPD in males
and the small canal size in females both may have been
the result of the active life-style of members of this
society. A more active life-style did not protect this
population from significant age-associated cortical-endosteal bone loss. However, bone loss in females was
compensated geometrically so that the structural ridigity increased even in the presence of a loss of bone
mass. Moreover, changes in osteon dimensions with
age may have enhanced the fatigue properties of the
femur, further compensating for reduced mass. Although cause and effect relationships are impossible to
determine in a static study such a s this one, the results
suggest that some variations a t the microstructural
and macrostructural levels are related.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors thank Nina Clovis, Barbara Roberts,
and Dorian Williams for their help in data collection.
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