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Am J Med Sci. 1988 Oct;296(4):266-9.

Skeletal repair in the aged: a preliminary study in rabbits.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NE 68131.


Bone mass loss associated with aging can lead to osteoporosis and multiple bone fractures with impaired healing requiring prolonged hospitalization and costly medical care. We have used an experimental implantation model to test the ability of old animals to form new bone. Bone repair inducers, consisting of demineralized bone matrix (DBM), bone marrow, and collagen, were implanted in the abdominal wall muscles of 1-month and 16-month old rabbits. DBM contains a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) that induces the differentiation of primitive mesenchymal cells into bone producing cells. The stromal cells of bone marrow can differentiate into osteoblasts after implantation, while collagen could serve as a calcification nucleus or framework for new tissue formation. Animals were killed 4 to 6 weeks after implantation. Implants were X-rayed, examined histologically, and analyzed for water content, calcium, and alkaline phosphatase. Only the implants of bone marrow enclosed in filter chambers (0.45 micron pore diameter) were associated with bone formation. Intramuscular implants of DBM and bone marrow in the old animals induced the formation of new bone but contained less calcium and lower levels of alkaline phosphatase than implants in the young animals. Collagen implants were resorbed and failed to induce bone formation or calcify. The results indicate that formation of new bone, under the conditions of this study, is reduced with aging.

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