, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 113-122

A quantitative histologic analysis of the growing long bone metaphysis

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The purpose of this work was to analyze the proximal tibial metaphysis of the 170 g rat in a quantitative histologic fashion which would allow some relation to tissue age to be established. Stained 3 µm thick tissue sections were analyzed with the aid of a Merz grid on an eyepiece reticule and a light microscope. Tissue mass and cell distribution were studied in all areas. The rate of change in tissue mass during aging of the metaphysis was calculated. Two regions of the metaphysis were identified. One, corresponding to the primary spongiosa, less than 4.45 days of age, is a region of high turnover of hard tissue and high numbers of osteoblasts and osteoprogenitor cells. The other, corresponding to the secondary spongiosa, is a region of relatively low net tissue turnover and low numbers of osteoblasts and osteoprogenitor cells. Osteoclasts were found relatively more uniformly distributed through the metaphysis than were osteoblasts and osteoprogenitor cells. The rate of bone formation in the primary spongiosa is 50 times that found in the Haversian bone of the rib of 5-year-old humans and about 500 times that found at the cortical-endosteal surface of ribs of 5-year-old humans. It is argued that both cell distribution and tissue distribution in the metaphysis support the concept that osteoblasts and osteoclasts, rather than osteocytes, are responsible for the maturation of the metaphysis. The inhomogeneous distribution of both cells and tissue in the metaphysis has definite meaning for the interpretation of findings concerning the incorporation of radionuclides into the skeleton.