Collagen Fiber Orientation in the Femoral Necks of Apes and Humans: Do Their Histological Structures Reflect Differences in Locomotor Loading?

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collagen fiber orientation, femoral neck, bone adaptation, circularly polarized light, chimpanzee locomotion, trendelenburg gait




Human hip joint anatomy differs substantially from that in other primates. Humans modulate pelvic tilt during walking with a highly developed abductor apparatus, but other primates (such as chimpanzees) clearly lack such an apparatus (they exhibit a Trendelenburg gait during bipedal progression). Because the primate femoral neck is cantilevered whenever it supports body mass, it must be consistently subjected to substantial bending at the neck/shaft interface during stance phase in quadrupedal or bipedal locomotion. It has been argued, however, that the powerful abduction during the single support phase in humans results in almost entirely compressive stress on the human femoral neck. We examined collagen fiber orientation in human and chimpanzee femoral neck cortices using circularly polarized light, which has been shown to be a strong correlate of bone loading patterns. Chimpanzee superior femoral neck cortex was shown to be largely nonbirefringent (dark), but the inferior cortex was strongly birefringent. Human femoral necks showed strong birefringence both superiorly and inferiorly. These results are consistent with loading patterns suggested from anatomical structure, and provide corroborative evidence of bone’s ability to preferentially orient collagen fibers during extracellular matrix deposition.