Mechanotransduction of bone cells in vitro: Mechanobiology of bone tissue

Margriet Mullender*, A. J. El Haj, Y. Yang, M. A. van Duin, E. H. Burger, J. Klein-Nulend

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Mechanical force plays an important role in the regulation of bone remodelling in intact bone and bone repair. In vitro, bone cells demonstrate a high responsiveness to mechanical stimuli. Much debate exists regarding the critical components in the load profile and whether different components, such as fluid shear, tension or compression, can influence cells in differing ways. During dynamic loading of intact bone, fluid is pressed through the osteocyte canaliculi, and it has been demonstrated that fluid shear stress stimulates osteocytes to produce signalling molecules. It is less clear how mechanical loads act on mature osteoblasts present on the surface of cancellous or trabecular bone. Although tissue strain and fluid shear stress both cause cell deformation, these stimuli could excite different signalling pathways. This is confirmed by our experimental findings, in human bone cells, that strain applied through the substrate and fluid flow stimulate the release of signalling molecules to varying extents. Nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2 values increased by between two- and nine-fold after treatment with pulsating fluid flow (0.6±0.3Pa). Cyclic strain (1000μstrain) stimulated the release of nitric oxide two-fold, but had no effect on prostaglandin E2. Furthermore, substrate strains enhanced the bone matrix protein collagen I two-fold, whereas fluid shear caused a 50% reduction in collagen I. The relevance of these variations is discussed in relation to bone growth and remodelling. In applications such as tissue engineering, both stimuli offer possibilities for enhancing bone cell growth in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-21
Number of pages8
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

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