Application of Histomorphometric Methods to the Study of Bone Repair

Authors

  • Louis C Gerstenfeld,

    1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
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  • Thomas J Wronski,

    1. Department of Physiological Sciences University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, USA
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  • Jeffrey O Hollinger,

    1. Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
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  • Thomas A Einhorn MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
    • Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Boston University School of Medicine Doctors Office Building, Suite 808 720 Harrison Avenue Boston, MA 02118, USA
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  • The authors have no conflict of interest

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Standardized methods for the histomorphometric assessment of bone are essential features of most studies of metabolic bone diseases and their treatments. These methodologies were developed to assess coupled remodeling, focusing primarily on osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the anabolic and catabolic rates of these cells, and structural features of mature bone. Research studies on bone healing and the development of new therapeutic approaches for the enhancement of bone repair also require a comprehensive understanding of the basic cellular and tissue level mechanisms that underlie these processes. However, the histological methods developed for metabolic bone disease studies are not completely suitable for studies of bone repair because they are based on assumptions that there is little variation in tissue composition within a sample of bone and not generally designed to quantify other types of tissues, such as cartilage, that contribute to bone healing. These techniques also do not provide tissue-based structural measurements that are relatable to the specific types of biomechanical and radiographic structural assessments that are used to determine rates of bone healing. These deficiencies in current histological approaches therefore point to the need to establish standardized criteria for the histomorphometric assessments that are specifically adapted for the study of bone repair in models of fracture healing and bone regeneration. In this Perspective, we outline what we believe to be the specific structural, tissue. and cellular aspects that need to be addressed to establish these standardized criteria for the histomorphometric assessment of bone repair. We present the specific technical considerations that need to be addressed to appropriately sample repair tissues to obtain statistically meaningful results and suggest specific procedures and definitions of nomenclatures for the application of this technology to bone repair. Finally, we present how aspects of histomorphometric measurements of bone repair can be related to biomechanical and radiographic imaging properties that functionally define rates of bone healing, and thus, how these tools can be used to provide corroborating data.

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