Bone was removed from the calvaria of anaesthetized 70 g rats or freshly killed young monkeys and the fibrous periosteum dissected off the inner, formative surface under 0.15 M cacodylate buffer. The bone and undisturbed osteoblasts were fixed in 3% glutaraldehyde in the same buffer for 24 to 48 hours, critical point dried and coated with evaporated carbon and gold for scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Fields of osteoblasts were photographed and chosen cells dissected off the osteoid using a tungsten needle. The control of the dissection was made possible by the use of a system of real-time stereo TV-speed SEM. The fields were rephotographed and the orientations of the osteoblasts were compared with that of the underlying collagen fibres. 62% of all osteoblasts lay with their long axes within 15° of the collagen fibre orientation below and 80% within 30°. Montages of large areas of osteoblasts were also made, and then compared with ones of the same area after the cells had been stripped off on adhesive tape. In general, the orientation of the collagen tended to be the same as the cell that formed it. Collagen fibres below cells at the periphery of a domain sometimes had the orientation of the cells in the adjacent patch. It is not possible to determine whether the cells controlled the orientation of the collagen, or vice versa, from this experiment, but other SEM evidence suggests that the collagen orientation in hard tissue matrices depends on the freedom of cells to move with respect to the matrix surface.
Osteoblasts Collagen orientation Parietal bone Rat, Rhesus monkey Scanning electron microscopy