Perspectives: A vital biomechanical model of the endochondral ossification mechanism


  • Harold M. Frost,

    1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Southern Colorado Clinic, Pueblo, Utah
    2. Radiobiology Division, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
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  • Webster S. S. Jee

    Corresponding author
    1. Radiobiology Division, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Radiobiology Division, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
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Background: Mechanical usage effects could explain many features of endochondral ossification and related processes. Mineralization of growth plate cartilage could reduce its mechanical strains enough to make its resorption begin and to guide it in space. By removing most of its mineralized vertical septae, resorption could overload the remainder enough to increase woven bone formation on them and construct the primary spongiosa. After it finishes mineralizing, the primary spongiosa could become stiff enough to begin partial disuse in strain terms, so BMU-based remodeling would begin replacing it with lamellar bone. This would construct the secondary spongiosa. In transferring loads from the growth plate to the cortex, the central metaphyseal spongiosa becomes deloaded. This disuse would make remodeling remove it in the diaphyseal marrow space.

Methods: The slow growth of epiphyses and apophyses gives their spongiosas more time to adapt to their loads than the metaphyseal spongiosa beneath faster growing growth plates. Compared to metaphyseal trabeculae, this leads to fewer and thicker epiphyseal trabeculae that turn over more slowly and should persist for life because they carry loads for life.

Results: Rapid turnover of metaphyseal cortex in very young subjects could let it strain enough to form woven bone. Increased thickness and slower turnover of this cortex in older subjects could reduce its strains enough to make lamellar bone form there instead. This would compose this cortex mostly of woven bone in the very young and of lamellar bone in adults.

Conclusions: This model assigns particular importance to the stiffness and strains of tissues (as distinguished from their strength and stresses), to the relative rates of some processes, and to responses of the skeleton's biologic mechanisms to a tissue's typical largest mechanical strains (as distinguished from their stresses). © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.