We have imaged the spatially-preserved microtexture of biogenic apatite, retained together with its collagen template, in non-demineralized human bone using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. Using ion-beam thinning, a specimen preparation method generally employed for inorganic minerals rather than for biological materials, we have imaged a composite nanostructure of bone not previously reported, and we propose a model for this nano-architecture that involves a box-construction of apatite plates and apatite sheets. This observation provides a new understanding of bone strength at the nanometre scale and suggests how post mortem enhancement of this texture by recrystallization probably accounts for the durability of ancient bone. Modern sheep bone (a close analogue for recently dead human bone) imaged in the same way also shows evidence of this composite architecture.

You do not currently have access to this article.