ASME Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 121:348-354, 1999

Reduced gap strains induce changes in bone regeneration during distraction.

Richards M, Waanders NA, Weiss JA, Bhatia V, Senunas LE, Schaffler MB, Goldstein SA, Goulet JA

A bilateral New Zealand white rabbit model of distraction osteogenesis (DO) was used to investigate the relationship between strain environment and bone regeneration during limb lengthening. In sever (n=7) rabbits, a stiffener was applied to the fixator on one side to reduce strains within the gap tissue after lengthening was completed. Animals were euthanized six days later and their distraction zones were harvested and analyzed for changes in new bone volume and architechture. Nonlinear finite element analyses (FEA) were performed to predict changes in the gap strain environment. FEA results predicted a nearly uniform sevenfold decrease in average strain measures within the distraction zone. No change in total average new bone volume and significant decreases in both bone volume fraction (BV/TV) and trabecular thickness (Tb.Th) were observed in tibia in which gap strains were reduced experimentally, compared to contralateral controls. These results suggest that fixator stiffening influenced the architecture but not the amount of newly formed bone. This animal model of distraction might be used to study the mechanisms by which strain fields affect events in bone repair and regeneration, such as cell proliferation, precursor tissue differentiation, and altered growth factor and nutrient delivery to tissues.