Bone response to alternate‐day mechanical loading of the rat tibia

D. M. Raab‐Cullen, M. P. Akhter, D. B. Kimmel, R. R. Recker

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Mechanical loading of the living skeleton influences bone formation, mass, and strength. The primary purpose of the present study was to examine the influence of different loading schedules (days/week) on the bone response to external loading using an in vivo rat tibia four-point bending model. Three studies were conducted to (1) characterize the loaded region, (2) examine the variation of the response within the loaded region, and (3) test the response to different loading schedules. In all studies adult female retired breeder Sprague-Dawley rats were used (6 months, 285 g). First, the location of the loaded region during four-point bending was determined by radiogrammetry of 7 rats. Second, 5 rats were externally loaded for 8 of 10 days at 31 N, 36 cycles, and 2 Hz (1349 ± 244 με). The extent of labeled (forming) periosteal and endocortical surface in the loaded region was compared both among four serial sections from the same tibia and between the loaded and the contralateral tibiae. Finally, 50 rats were randomized into five groups: two nonloaded, control and sham, and three loaded, alternate day, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and daily. The rats were externally loaded for 3 weeks at 35 N, 36 cycles, and 2 Hz (1533 ± 308 με). The tibia and fibula were studied for labeled surfaces and mineral apposition rate. For adult female rats with tibial length 39 mm, the loaded region was located 3.5-14 (±0.7) mm proximal to the tibia-fibula junction (TFJ). With multiple repositionings in the same rat, the location of the distal inner pad varied from 3.2 to 3.8 mm proximal to the TFJ (95% confidence interval). The response to loading was consistent within the loaded region and reliably sampled by two cross sections from the loaded region. The bone response under the loading pads was not different from that at other points within the loaded region. There were no differences in the response to external mechanical loading among the three loading schedules (daily, alternate day, and Monday-Wednesday-Friday). Loading created greater formation surface on the medial periosteum of the tibia (70%) and on the fibula (92%) of externally loaded legs than in nonloaded legs. Loading had no effect on the lateral periosteal formation surface or on the endocortical surface of the tibia. Loading created greater mineral apposition rate in loaded than nonloaded tibia (28-72% greater) at all periosteal surfaces. The pattern of response to loading was the same in both studies 2 and 3. In an adult rat, this model produces a predictable bone response to external mechanical loading in a defined region of the tibial diaphysis. External loading 3 or 4 days/week is as effective as daily loading for increasing periosteal bone formation surface and mineral apposition rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-211
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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