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Osteoporos Int. 2006 Oct;17(10):1552-61. Epub 2006 Jul 28.

Spinal cord injury causes more damage to bone mass, bone structure, biomechanical properties and bone metabolism than sciatic neurectomy in young rats.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.



Although both spinal cord injury (SCI) and sciatic neurectomy (NX) can cause osteopaenia in young rats, the effects of these two injuries on cortical and cancellous bone may differ. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of SCI and NX on bone weight, bone material property, bone mass, bone geometry, trabecular microarchitecture, mechanical strength and bone turnover in young rats.


Thirty six-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomised into three groups (10 per group): SCI, bilateral sciatic NX and untreated control (CON). All rats were killed on day 21. Bone mineral density (BMD) was studied using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). At death, the right proximal tibial metaphysis and the fourth lumbar vertebra were examined for bone structural geometric analysis by micro-computed tomography (CT) and then processed for histomorphometry to assess bone cell activity. Serum N-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen (NTX) and osteocalcin (OC) levels were analysed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Biomechanical strength properties of the femur and humerus were measured by three-point bending, and the third lumbar vertebra and the proximal end of tibia were tested by compression.


BMD in the sublesional areas of SCI rats was significantly lower than that of NX rats (proximal tibia, 0.176+/-0.018 g/cm(2) vs. 0.224+/-0.015 g/cm(2), P<0.001). Bone volume (BV/TV), trabecular number (Tb.N) and thickness (Tb.Th) in the tibial second spongiosa of SCI rats were significantly less than those in NX rats (BV/TV: 7.15+/-1.18% vs. 12.32+/-1.83%, P<0.001; Tb.N: 1.23+/-0.22 vs. 2.38+/-0.45, P<0.001; Tb.Th: 33.73+/-5.15 microm vs. 42.80+/-7.44 microm, P<0.01) and trabecular separation (Tb.Sp: 1,053.37+/-164.24 microm vs. 748.32+/-129.36 microm, P<0.01) was significantly greater than in NX rats. Furthermore, poorer trabecular connectivity was found in SCI rats than in NX rats (number of nodes, N.Nd/TV: 1.04+/-0.09 vs. 3.29+/-0.53; number of terminus, N.Tm/TV: 28.53+/-3.17 vs. 21.64+/-2.31, P<0.01). The bone formation rate of the tibial second spongiosa in SCI rats was significantly higher than in NX rats (2.06+/-0.13 vs. 1.53+/-0.09, P<0.001) and, also, the eroded surface in SCI rats was significantly higher than in NX rats (13.42+/-1.24 vs. 10.36+/-1.07, P<0.001). In addition, biomechanical tests showed that SCI rats had poorer biomechanical properties of the femur, proximal tibia and fourth lumbar vertebra than in NX rats. There were significantly higher levels of OC in SCI rats compared with NX rats (30.19+/-1.17 vs. 21.15+/-1.76, P<0.001). Also, serum NTX levels were significantly higher than in NX rats (51.60+/-2.61 vs. 33.85+/-1.93, P<0.001).


SCI caused more damage to bone mass, bone structure, biomechanical properties and bone metabolism than NX in young rats. This suggests that different mechanisms may underlie osteopaenia following SCI and NX.

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