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J Orthop Res. 2003 Jan;21(1):20-7.

Expression of smooth muscle actin in cells involved in distraction osteogenesis in a rat model.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, MRB 106, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Distraction osteogenesis has proven to be of great value for the treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal problems. Little is still known, however, about the phenotypic changes in the cells participating in the bone formation process, induced by the procedure. Recent findings of the expression of a contractile muscle actin isoform, alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA), in musculoskeletal connective tissue cells prompted this immunohistochemical study of the expression of SMA in cells participating in distraction osteogenesis in a rat model. The tissues within and adjacent to the distraction site could be distinguished histologically on the basis of cell morphology, density, and extracellular matrix make-up. The percentage of SMA-containing cells within each tissue zone was graded from 0 to 4. The majority of the cells in each of the zones stained positive for SMA within five days of the distraction period. The SMA-containing cells included those with elongated morphology in the center of the distraction site and the active osteoblasts on the surfaces of the newly forming bone. These finding warrant further investigation of the role of this contractile actin isoform in distraction osteogenesis and investigation of the effects of modulation of this actin isoform on the procedure.

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