Amongst these were genes which have known or suspected roles in o

Amongst these were genes which have known or suspected roles in osteocyte metabolism as well as genes encoding extracellular proteins which potentially facilitate communication with both osteoblasts and osteoclasts. The vertebra loading model is not the only model which has been established to investigate load induced bone adaptation. A number of different animal loading models have been established which focus more on the response of cortical bone to mechanical

stimulation. These include ulnar [56], tibial [57] and femoral [58] loading models. Some of these models have also been used as part of global gene expression studies similar to that described for the mouse-tail loading model [59], [60] and [61], the main difference being that instead of isolating pure osteocyte cell fractions, mRNA from the entire heterogeneous cell population E7080 contained within the loaded bone had been pooled and assayed (i.e. osteoblasts, osteoclasts, stromal cells). Global gene expression assays Sotrastaurin mw derived from in vivo models for bone adaptation have identified a number of candidate genes and revealed potential load regulated pathways. However, caution must be exercised when interpreting these data. The harvesting and analysis of large populations of osteocytes reports gene expression averaged over tens of thousands of cells, each of which reside in different micro-environments

characterized by different levels of mechanical strain and local osteoblastic/osteoclastic

activity. It is therefore possible that key genes and networks are being concealed. Recently a few studies [62] and [63] have begun to investigate local regulation of gene expression in osteocytes by comparing 2D histology sections from loaded bone stained for specific molecular targets (sclerostin) Unoprostone with micro finite element (μFE) models. Whilst informative, these approaches are still very much qualitative and only permit the analysis of one specific molecular target at a time. To overcome these limitations a novel combination of old and new technologies has recently been proposed (termed microfluidic imaging) which promises to map, quantitatively, and in three dimensions (3D) the expression of multiple genes in individual osteocytes. This ‘microfluidic imaging’ approach is reviewed in more detail elsewhere [64] but can be briefly described by the following workflow ( Fig. 7): 1) Bone formation and resorption are spatially mapped and quantified in a mouse loading model using in vivo μCT [65] and 3D image registration techniques [66]. 2) The micromechanical environment in loaded bone is determined by creating μFE models of the loaded bone from the initial CT image  [67] and [68]. 3) At the end of a specific loading regime, cryosectioning [69] and laser-capture-microdissection technologies are used to extract individual osteocytes [70] which are then processed (dna–micro-arrays, RT-PCR) using state-of-the-art lab-on-a-chip technologies [71].

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