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J Biomech. 2010 Sep 17;43(13):2582-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.05.010.

Tissue and cellular morphological changes in growth plate explants under compression.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal, Station Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


The mechanisms by which mechanical loading may alter bone development within growth plates are still poorly understood. However, several growth plate cell or tissue morphological parameters are associated with both normal and mechanically modulated bone growth rates. The aim of this study was to quantify in situ the three-dimensional morphology of growth plate explants under compression at both cell and tissue levels. Growth plates were dissected from ulnae of immature swine and tested under 15% compressive strain. Confocal microscopy was used to image fluorescently labeled chondrocytes in the three growth plate zones before and after compression. Quantitative morphological analyses at both cell (volume, surface area, sphericity, minor/major radii) and tissue (cell/matrix volume ratio) levels were performed. Greater chondrocyte bulk strains (volume decrease normalized to the initial cell volume) were found in the proliferative (35.4%) and hypertrophic (41.7%) zones, with lower chondrocyte bulk strains (24.7%) in the reserve zone. Following compression, the cell/matrix volume ratio decreased in the reserve and hypertrophic zones by 24.3% and 22.6%, respectively, whereas it increased by 35.9% in the proliferative zone. The 15% strain applied on growth plate explants revealed zone-dependent deformational states at both tissue and cell levels. Variations in the mechanical response of the chondrocytes from different zones could be related to significant inhomogeneities in growth plate zonal mechanical properties. The ability to obtain in situ cell morphometry and monitor the changes under compression will contribute to a better understanding of mechanisms through which abnormal growth can be triggered.

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