Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical Engineering

Committee Chair

Russell Main

Committee Member 1

Sarah Calve

Committee Member 2

Eric Nauman

Committee Member 3

Sherry Voytik-Harbin


Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a severe loss in bone mineral density, putting individuals at elevated risk of bone fracture. The disorder is extremely prevalent, with high associated costs. Pharmaceutical treatments exist, but currently have severe drawbacks, and preventative measures are effective primarily within an individual's first two decades of life, long before the normal age of diagnosis. To better develop treatments in a high-throughput physiological setting, an in vitro model for bone cell culture that accurately recapitulates the in vivo cellular environment is needed. Thus, a 3D culture system has been developed utilizing porcine skin collagen oligomers (PSC) and precipitated hydroxyapatite (HA) nanoparticles to support de novo bone formation and differentiation of osteoblasts into osteocytes. Cells isolated from DMP1-Cre x mT/mG mice were cultured in 3D matrices with differing concentrations of PSC and HA for 3 and 56 days in osteogenic medium, before being sampled for testing. Fixed culture sections were imaged using confocal microscopy to quantify differentiation of osteoblasts to osteocytes, indicated by the shift from cellular expression of red fluorescent protein to green fluorescent protein through the activation of the promoter for the osteocyte-specific dentin matrix protein 1. These data demonstrated a significant proportional increase in late osteoblasts and and osteocytes. μCT analysis showed a significant increase in mineralization of the ECM, exclusive to cultures initially formed with HA. This was reflected by increased mechanical stiffness at high strain in some culture conditions.