PURPOSE OF REVIEW - While thinning of the cortices or trabeculae weakens bone, age-related changes in matrix composition also lower fracture resistance. This review summarizes how the organic matrix, mineral phase, and water compartments influence the mechanical behavior of bone, thereby identifying characteristics important to fracture risk.
RECENT FINDINGS - In the synthesis of the organic matrix, tropocollagen experiences various post-translational modifications that facilitate a highly organized fibril of collagen I with a preferred orientation giving bone extensibility and several toughening mechanisms. Being a ceramic, mineral is brittle but increases the strength of bone as its content within the organic matrix increases. With time, hydroxyapatite-like crystals experience carbonate substitutions, the consequence of which remains to be understood. Water participates in hydrogen bonding with organic matrix and in electrostatic attractions with mineral phase, thereby providing stability to collagen-mineral interface and ductility to bone. Clinical tools sensitive to age- and disease-related changes in matrix composition that the affect mechanical behavior of bone could potentially improve fracture risk assessment.