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Histol Histopathol. 1999 Apr;14(2):587-95.

Molecular signaling in bone fracture healing and distraction osteogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Rheumatology, U. Z. Leuven, Pellenberg, Belgium.


The process of fracture healing has been described in detail in many histological studies. Recent work has focused on the mechanisms by which growth and differentiation factors regulate the fracture healing process. Rapid progress in skeletal cellular and molecular biology has led to the identification of many signaling molecules associated with the formation of skeletal tissues, including members of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) family. Increasing evidence indicates that they are critical regulators of cellular proliferation, differentiation, extracellular matrix biosynthesis and mineralization. Limb lengthening procedure (distraction osteogenesis) is a relevant model to investigate the in vivo correlation between mechanical stimulation and biological responses as the callus is stretched by a proper rate and rhythm of mechanical strain. This model also provides additional insights into the molecular and cellular events during bone fracture repair. TGF-beta 1 was significantly increased in both the distracted callus and the fracture callus. The increased level of TGF-beta 1, together with a low concentration of calcium and an enhanced level of collagen synthesis, was maintained in the distracted callus as long as mechanical strain was applied. Less mineralization is also associated with a low level of osteocalcin production. These observations provide further insights into the molecular basis for the cellular events during distraction osteogenesis.

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