Replacement of bone marrow by bone in rat femurs: The bone bioreactor

Qing Zhang, Esteban Cuartas, Nozer Mehta, James Gilligan, Hua Zhu Ke, W. Mark Saltzman, Maya Kotas, Mandy Ma, Sonali Rajan, Cécile Chalouni, Jodi Carlson, Agnès Vignery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During development and repair of bone, two distinct yet complementary mechanisms, intramembranous and endochondral, mediate new bone formation via osteoblasts. Because mechanical bone marrow ablation leads to the rapid and transient formation of new bone in the marrow cavity, we postulated that parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is a bone anabolic hormone, enhances the formation of new bone that forms after marrow ablation. We subjected the left femur of rats to mechanical marrow ablation, or sham operation, and injected the animals daily with PTH or vehicle for 1, 2, or 3 weeks in a first experiment, then with PTH, parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP), or vehicle for 3 weeks in a second experiment. We subjected both femurs from each rat to soft X-ray, peripheral quantitative computed tomography, computed tomography on a microscale, and histological analysis, and determined the concentration of serum osteocalcin. In addition, in the second experiment, we determined the serum concentration of calcium, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP), and receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) at 3 weeks, and subjected femurs to biomechanical testing. Following treatment with PTH or PTHrP for 3 weeks, bone filled the marrow cavity of the shafts whose marrow had been ablated. PTH increased trabecular density in the right femur, but failed to induce bone formation in the medullary region of the right unoperated femoral shafts. The newly formed bone endowed left femoral shafts with improved biomechanical properties when compared to those of right femurs and left femurs from control, sham-operated, and vehicle-treated rats. PTHrP, like PTH, increased serum osteocalcin, but neither increased serum calcium, TRAP, or RANKL at 3 weeks. Our results reveal that the newly formed bone that follows marrow ablation is responsive to PTH, expand the role of PTH in bone, and might open new avenues of investigations to the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Local bone marrow removal in conjunction with pharmacologic intervention with an anabolic agent might provide a technique for rapid preferential site-directed bone growth in areas of high bone loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-246
Number of pages10
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A.
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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