Fracture healing is a complex, multistep process that is highly sensitive to mechanical signaling. To optimize repair, surgeons prescribe immediate weight-bearing as-tolerated within 24 hours after surgical fixation; however, this recommendation is based on anecdotal evidence and assessment of bulk healing outcomes (e.g., callus size, bone volume, etc.). Given challenges in accurately characterizing the mechanical environment and the ever-changing properties of the regenerate, the principles governing mechanical regulation of repair, including their cell and molecular basis, are not yet well defined. However, the use of mechanobiological rodent models, and their relatively large genetic toolbox, combined with recent advances in imaging approaches and single-cell analyses is improving our understanding of the bone microenvironment in response to loading. This review describes the identification and characterization of distinct cell populations involved in bone healing and highlights the most recent findings on mechanical regulation of bone homeostasis and repair with an emphasis on osteo-angio coupling. A discussion on aging and its impact on bone mechanoresponsiveness emphasizes the need for novel mechanotherapeutics that can re-sensitize skeletal stem and progenitor cells to physical rehabilitation protocols.
Fracture healing; Mechanical regulation of bone repair; Bone mechanobiology; Bone mechanoadaptation; Skeletal stem and progenitor cells; Dynamization; Fracture callus