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Is bone formation induced by high-frequency mechanical signals modulated by muscle activity?

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2580, USA.


Bone formation and resorption are sensitive to both external loads arising from gravitational loading as well to internal loads generated by muscular activity. The question as to which of the two sources provides the dominant stimulus for bone homeostasis and new bone accretion is arguably tied to the specific type of activity and anatomical site but it is often assumed that, because of their purportedly greater magnitude, muscle loads modulate changes in bone morphology. High-frequency mechanical signals may provide benefits at low- (<1g) and high- (>1g) acceleration magnitudes. While the mechanisms by which cells perceive high-frequency signals are largely unknown, higher magnitude vibrations can cause large muscle loads and may therefore be sensed by pathways similar to those associated with exercise. Here, we review experimental data to examine whether vibrations applied at very low magnitudes may be sensed directly by transmittance of the signal through the skeleton or whether muscle activity modulates, and perhaps amplifies, the externally applied mechanical stimulus. Current data indicate that the anabolic and anti-catabolic effects of whole body vibrations on the skeleton are unlikely to require muscular activity to become effective. Even high-frequency signals that induce bone matrix deformations of far less than five microstrain can promote bone formation in the absence of muscular activity. This independence of cells on large strains suggests that mechanical interventions can be designed that are both safe and effective.

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