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Biomaterials. 1991 Mar;12(2):101-10.

Biochemical signal transduction of mechanical strain in osteoblast-like cells.

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Laboratory for Cell Biology, Orthopaedic Clinic, University of Münster, Germany.


The responses to mechanical loading of two types of osteoblast-like cells and skin fibroblasts were investigated using two new devices for applying defined and homogeneous strains to cells. The results indicate that only periostal (bone surface) osteoblasts are sensitive to strains within the physiological range and that a specific strain mechanism is responsible. Osteoblasts derived from the haversian system and skin fibroblasts do not respond except at higher, unphysiological strains. The mechanism is located in the cytoskeleton and activates the membrane phospholipase C within milliseconds and may react to distension of a strain sensitive protein. Activation of phospholipase C can account for only some of the observed responses of bone to mechanical loading such as stimulation of cell division, increase in collagen and collagenase production. Application of over 10,000 mu strains results in a de-differentiation of the osteoblasts and a change in cell morphology to become fibroblast-like.

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