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Clin Rheumatol. 1996 Nov;15(6):563-72.

Intermittent compressive load stimulates osteogenesis and improves osteocyte viability in bones cultured "in vitro".

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  • 1Institute of Human Anatomy, University of Bari, Italy.


The effect of mechanical stresses on osteogenesis, the viability of osteocytes and their metabolic activity in organ culture of bones intermittently loaded "in vitro" are reported. Metatarsal bones, isolated from 12-day-old rats, were cultured in BGJb medium (with 10% foetal calf serum, 75 micrograms/ml of ascorbic acid, 100 U/ml of penicillin and 100 micrograms/ml of streptomycin), in humidified air enriched by 5% CO2 and 30% O2, and loaded in our original device for 1/2 an hour at 1 Hz. homotypic isolated and unloaded bones, cultured in the same medium, were taken as controls. The ALP (alkaline phophatase activity) increases in the media of loaded bones in comparison with the control bones. The percentage of viable osteocytes is significantly greater in loaded than in control bones. TEM observations demonstrate that in both loaded and control unloaded bones, osteocytes show well developed organelle machinery and several gap junctions with adjacent cellular processes. In the cells of loaded bones, however, a higher number of cytoplasmic organelles and gap junctions were found. In particular, RER increases twice, gap junctions three times. The induced osteogenesis and the TEM observations demonstrate the suitability of this experimental model and support the recent advanced hypothesis according to which the mechanical loading may exert a trophic function on osteocytes, stimulating both the proteic synthesis in the above-mentioned cells and the cell-to-cell communication. Furthermore, the loading is likely to exert a biological stimulus on osteoblasts via signalling molecules produced by osteocytes.

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