Adaptation of cancellous bone to aging and immobilization in the rat: A single photon absorptiometry and histomorphometry study



Nine-month-old female rats were double-labled with bone markers and subjected to right hindlimb immobilization or served as control for 0, 2, 10, 18, or 26 weeks. The right limb was immobilized against the abdomen, thus unloading it, while the left limb was overloaded during ambulation. Single photon absorptiometry and cancellous bone histomorphometry were performed on dissected intact femur and 20-m̈m-thick undecalcified specimens of the proximal tibial metaphysis. In the unloaded limb, immobilization-induced muscle and cancellous bone loss occurred rapidly before 10 weeks and stabilized at 50% less bone mass after 18 weeks. Unloading caused a negative bone balance from a combination of elevated bone resorption and depressed bone formation. At 2, 10, and 18 weeks of immobilization, the ratios of bone resorption to bone formation surfaces were 1.6, 1.5, and 1.3, respectively; at 26 weeks, the ratio was 1. The bone loss was accompanied by poorer trabecular architecture (trabecular number decreased and trabecular separation increased), reaching the maximum at 18 weeks and stabilizing thereafter. These observations are in general agreement with Frost's postulate for mechanical effects on lamellar bone remodeling, and the findings on disuse osteoporosis in man. Therefore, the one-legged immobilization model can be useful in studies of the mechanisms of structural adaptation to mechanical usage.