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J Orthop Res. 2004 Sep;22(5):1079-85.

Mechanical environment alters tissue formation patterns during fracture repair.

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Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Michigan, G-161 400 N. Ingalls, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0486, USA.


Fracture repair has previously been shown to be sensitive to mechanical environment, yet the specific relationship between strain character, magnitude and frequency, as well as other mechanical parameters, and tissue formation is not well understood. This study aimed to correlate strain distribution within the healing fracture gap with patterns of tissue formation using a rat model of a healing osteotomy subject to mechanical stimulation in bending. Finite element models based on realistic tissue distributions were used to estimate both the magnitude and spatial distribution of strains within the fracture gap. The spatial distribution of regenerating tissue was determined by microcomputed tomography and histology, and was confirmed using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Results suggest that tensile strains suppress chondrogenesis during the mechanical stimulation period. After stimulation ends, however, tensile strains increased chondrogenesis followed by rapid bone formation. In contrast, in compressive environments, bone is formed primarily via intramembranous ossification. Taken together, these results suggest that intermittent tensile strains during fracture repair stimulate endochondral ossification and promote eventual bone healing compared to intermittent compressive strains and unstimulated fractures. Further understanding of these relationships may allow proposal of optimal therapeutic strategies for improvement of the fracture repair process.

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