We have recently developed an experimental model in which pins, inserted into the 7th and 9th caudal vertebrae of 13-wk-old rats, are used to load the 8th caudal vertebra in compression. We have now applied this model to assess the responsiveness of rat cancellous bone to mechanical stimulation. We found that daily exposure to loads that induce strains similar to those observed in bone during relatively gentle physical activity, for 30 cycles/day, increased the rate of lamellar bone formation on cancellous surfaces by up to 140-fold. Bone formation rate showed a highly significant (P < 0.0001) correlation with the number of days for which the bones were loaded and with the size of the load. A single loading episode of 300 cycles, representing a 10-min period of loading, increased bone formation to 24 times that in nonloaded controls. Indexes of bone resorption were essentially the inverse of the bone formation parameters. These experiments show that rat cancellous bone is exquisitely sensitive to mechanical stimulation and suggest that the mechanical environment is a major determinant of the physiological behavior of mammalian cancellous bone.
Keywords: bone formation; bone resorption; mechanical stimuli