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Keywords:

  • BMU coupling;
  • remodeling;
  • osteoclasts;
  • osteoblasts;
  • strain

Abstract

Histologically, two types of bone reconstruction are distinguished: modeling and remodeling. Modeling changes the amount of bone and determines its geometrical form in relation to the prevailing mechanical loads and their resulting deformation (strain). Remodeling renews existing bone in a sequence of resorption and formation. However, in both processes the cells responsible for resorption and formation are the same: osteoclasts and osteoblasts. We studied if there is a relation between the activity of these cells and the deformation of the local bone tissue during remodeling. Two finite element models were built on a microscopic, supracellular level: (1) a secondary osteon in cortical bone and (2) a Howship's lacuna in a trabecula. Both models were loaded in the “natural,” that is, longitudinal direction. Equivalent strains were determined as a measure for the deformation of the bone tissue. In the first model, the strain field around the osteon showed a region of decreased deformation in front of the tunnel, just where osteoclasts excavate cortical bone tissue. Behind the cutting cone, elevated strain levels appear in the tunnel wall at locations where osteoblasts are active. The second model showed that a local excavation of a loaded trabecula leads to higher strains at the bottom of the lacuna, where resorption is stopped and osteoblasts are recruited to refill the gap. However, in the direction of loading reduced strain levels appear, just where resorption continues to proceed along the trabecular surface. We conclude that at the tissue level, strain distributions occur during the remodeling process that show a relationship to the activity of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. This suggests that BMU coupling, that is, the subsequent activation of osteoclasts and osteoblasts during remodeling, is a strain-regulated phenomenon. (J Bone Miner Res 2000;15: 301–307)