Center for Orthopedics, Affiliated Southeast Hospital of Xiamen University/175th Hospital of People's Liberation Army, Zhangzhou, P. R. China, 363000
* Co-first authors: Guofeng Huang, Guojun Liu, and Feng Zhang contributed equally to this article.
Under physiological conditions bone defects often occur at mechanical load bearing sites and bone substitutes used for regeneration should be similarly subjected to mechanical loading stress. In this study, we investigated whether a novel heel-strike like mechanical loading method can be used as a complementary therapy to promote bone regeneration following bone substitute grafting. To test this, three groups of rabbits with segmental bone defects in the tibia were implanted with bovine deproteinized cancellous bone scaffold (DCBS), with one group also receiving heel-strike like mechanical loading generated by a rap stress stimulator. From weeks 4-12 post-operation X-ray and micro-CT scanning showed that rabbits receiving combination therapy had significantly more callus at the bone defect. Moreover, bone defects in the combination group were completely replaced with new bone at week 12, while the DCBS implantation alone group healed only partially and rabbits receiving neither DCBS nor mechanical loading developed only small calluses throughout the observation period. Analysis of micro-CT scanning results demonstrated that new bone density in the combination group was significantly higher than the DCBS only group at weeks 4 and 12 (p<0.05). H&E staining results also indicated a significantly higher percentage of new bone in the bone defect area and a lower percentage of residual scaffold in the combination group compared to the DCBS only group (p<0.05). Thus, this heel-strike like mechanical loading method appears to accelerate bone regeneration following substitute implantation by restoring a local mechanical loading environment in segmental bone defects.
Keywords: segmental bone defect, heel-strike like mechanical loading, deproteinized cancellous bone scaffold, bone substitutes, bone regeneration