Bone-loading response varies with strain magnitude and cycle number.

date: 11/01/2001
author: Cullen DM, Smith RT, Akhter MP.
publication: J Appl Physiol. 2001 Nov;91(5):1971-6.
pubmed_ID: 11641332

Mechanical loading stimulates bone formation and regulates bone size, shape, and strength. It is recognized that strain magnitude, strain rate, and frequency are variables that explain bone stimulation. Early loading studies have shown that a low number (36) of cycles/day (cyc) induced maximal bone formation when strains were high (2,000 microepsilon) (Rubin CT and Lanyon LE. J Bone Joint Surg Am 66: 397-402, 1984). This study examines whether cycle number directly affects the bone response to loading and whether cycle number for activation of formation varies with load magnitude at low frequency. The adult rat tibiae were loaded in four-point bending at 25 (-800 microepsilon) or 30 N (-1,000 microepsilon) for 0, 40, 120, or 400 cyc at 2 Hz for 3 wk. Differences in periosteal and endocortical formation were examined by histomorphometry. Loading did not stimulate bone formation at 40 cyc. Compared with control tibiae, tibiae loaded at -800 microepsilon showed 2.8-fold greater periosteal bone formation rate at 400 cyc but no differences in endocortical formation. Tibiae loaded at -1,000 microepsilon and 120 or 400 cyc had 8- to 10-fold greater periosteal formation rate, 2- to 3-fold greater formation surface, and 1-fold greater endocortical formation surface than control. As applied load or strain magnitude decreased, the number of cyc required for activation of formation increased. We conclude that, at constant frequency, the number of cyc required to activate formation is dependent on strain and that, as number of cyc increases, the bone response increases.