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Anabolism

Low mechanical signals strengthen long bones

Abstract

Although the skeleton's adaptability to load-bearing has been recognized for over a century1, the specific mechanical components responsible for strengthening it have not been identified. Here we show that after mechanically stimulating the hindlimbs of adult sheep on a daily basis for a year with 20-minute bursts of very-low-magnitude, high-frequency vibration, the density of the spongy (trabecular) bone in the proximal femur is significantly increased (by 34.2%) compared to controls. As the strain levels generated by this treatment are three orders of magnitude below those that damage bone tissue, this anabolic, non-invasive stimulus may have potential for treating skeletal conditions such as osteoporosis.

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Figure 1: Montages of photomicrographs of the proximal sheep femur used for static histomorphometric evaluation after 1 year of exposure (20 min per day) to a 0.3g, 30-Hz mechanical stimulus.

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Correspondence to Clinton Rubin.

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Rubin, C., Turner, A., Bain, S. et al. Low mechanical signals strengthen long bones. Nature 412, 603–604 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35088122

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