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Bone. 1999 Sep;25(3):321-32.

Repair of segmental bone defects in the rat: an experimental model of human fracture healing.

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Orthopedic Research Laboratory, VA Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68105, USA.


Bone repair models in animals may be considered relevant to human fracture healing to the extent that the sequence of events in the repair process in the model reflect the human fracture healing sequence. In the present study, the relevance of a recently developed segmental defect model in rat fibula to human fracture healing was investigated by evaluating temporal progression of rigidity of the fibula, mineral content of the repair site, and histological changes. In this model, a surgically created 2-mm-long defect was grafted with a 5-mm-long tubular specimen of demineralized bone matrix (DBM) by inserting it over the cut ends of the fibula. The temporal increase in rigidity of the healing fibula demonstrated a pattern similar to biomechanical healing curves measured in human fracture healing. This pattern was characterized by a short phase of rapidly rising rigidity during weeks 4-7 after surgery, associated with a sharp increase in the mineral content of the repair tissue. This was preceded by a phase of nearly zero rigidity and followed by a phase of slow rate of increase approaching a plateau. Histologically, chondroblastic and osteoblastic blastema originating from extraskeletal and subperiosteal (near fibula-graft junction) regions, infiltrated the DBM graft during the first 2 weeks. The DBM graft assumed the role of a "bridging callus." By weeks 6-8, most of the DBM was converted to new woven and trabecular bone with maximal osteoblastic activity and minimal endochondral ossification. Medullary callus formation started with direct new bone formation adjacent to the cortical and endosteal surfaces in the defect and undifferentiated cells in the center of the defect at 3 weeks. The usual bone repair process in rodents was altered by the presence of the DBM graft to recapitulate the sequential stages of human fracture healing, including the formation of a medullary callus, union with woven and lamellar bone, and recreation of the medullary canal.

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