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Biogerontology. 2004;5(2):107-18.

Aged human bone marrow stromal cells maintaining bone forming capacity in vivo evaluated using an improved method of visualization.

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University Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Aarhus Amtssygehus, Denmark.


Age-related decreased osteoblast function is a well-known but poorly understood phenomenon. Previous studies that examined the effects of donor age on osteoblast functions employed in vitro assays that may not reflect the true osteoblast capacity for bone formation. Thus, we have developed an in vivo assay for quantifying the bone forming capacity (BFC) and we compared the BFC of osteoblastic cells obtained from young and old donors. Osteoblasts were obtained from human bone marrow stromal cell cultures and implanted subcutaneously in immuno-deficient mice (NOD/LtSz- Prkdc(scid)). After 8 weeks, the implants were removed and embedded un-decalcified in methyl methacrylate (MMA). Sections were stained histochemically with Goldner's Trichrome stain and immuno-histochemically using human-specific antibodies against known osteogenic markers. Implanted human marrow stromal cells (hMSC) were able to form bone in vivo. The donor origin of bone was verified using several human-specific antibodies. Dose-response experiments demonstrated that 5 x 10(5) hMSC per implant gave the maximal bone formation after 8 weeks. No difference in BFC was observed between cells obtained from young (24-30 years old; mean age 27 +/- 2 years, n = 5) and old (71-81 years old; mean age 75 +/- 4 years, n = 5) donors. Our study demonstrates that the capacity of hMSC to form bone in vivo is maintained with age and suggests that the observed senescence-associated decrease in bone formation is due to a defect in the bone microenvironment, the nature of which remains to be determined.

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