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J Biomech. 1997 May;30(5):421-9.

Adaptation of bone to physiological stimuli.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, McCaig Centre for Joint Injury and Arthritis Research, University of Calgary, AB, Canada.


The ability of bone to alter its morphology in response to local physical stimuli is predicated upon the appropriate recruitment of bone cell populations. In turn, the ability to initiate cellular recruitment is influenced by numerous local and systemic factors. In this paper, we discuss data from three ongoing projects from our laboratory that examine how physiological processes influence adaptation and growth in the skeleton. In the first study, we recorded in vivo strains to quantify the locomotion-induced distribution of two parameters closely related to bone fluid flow strain rate and strain gradients. We found that the magnitude of these parameters (and thus the implied fluid flow) varies substantially within a given cross-section, and that while strain rate magnitude increases uniformly with elevated speed, strain gradients increase focally as gait speed is increased. Secondly, we examined the influence of vascular alterations on bone adaptation by assessing bone blood flow and bone mechanical properties in an in vivo model of trauma-induced joint laxity. A strong negative correlation (r2 = 0.8) was found between increased blood flow (76%) in the primary and secondary spongiosa and decreased stiffness (-34%) following 14 weeks of joint laxity. These data suggest that blood flow and/or vascular adaptation may interact closely with bone adaptation initiated by trauma. Thirdly, we examined the effect of a systemic influence upon skeletal health. After 4 weeks old rats were fed high fat-sucrose diets for 2 yr, their bone mechanical properties were significantly reduced. These changes were primarily due to interference with normal calcium absorption. In the aggregate, these studies emphasize the complexity of bone's normal physical environment, and also illustrate the potential interactions of local and systemic factors upon the process by which bone adapts to physical stimuli.

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