Using Cell and Organ Culture Models to Analyze Responses of Bone Cells to Mechanical Stimulation

  • Andrew A. Pitsillides
  • Simon C. F. Rawlinson
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 816)


Bone cells of the osteoblastic lineage are responsive to the local mechanical environment. Through integration of a number of possible loading-induced regulatory stimuli, osteocyte, osteoblast, and osteoclast behaviour is organized to fashion a skeletal element of sufficient strength and toughness to resist fracture and crack propagation. Early pre-osteogenic responses had been determined in vivo and this led to the development of bone organ culture models to elucidate other pre-osteogenic responses where osteocytes and osteoblasts retain the natural orientation, connections and attachments to their native extracellular matrix. The application of physiological mechanical loads to bone in these organ culture models generates the regulatory stimuli. As a consequence, these experiments can be used to illustrate the distinctive mechanisms by which osteocytes and osteoblasts respond to mechanical loads and also differences in these responses, suggesting co-ordinated and cooperatively between cell populations. Organ explant cultures are awkward to maintain, and have a limited life, but length of culture times are improving. Monolayer cultures are much easier to maintain and permit the application of a particular mechanical stimulation to be studied in isolation; mainly direct mechanical strain or fluid shear strains. These allow for the response of a single cell type to the applied mechanical stimulation to be monitored precisely.

The techniques that can be used to apply mechanical strain to bone and bone cells have not advanced greatly since the first edition. The output from such experiments has, however, increased substantially and their importance is now more broadly accepted. This suggests a growing use of these approaches and an increasing awareness of the importance of the mechanical environment in controlling normal bone cell behaviour. We expand the text to include additions and modifications made to the straining apparatus and update the research cited to support this growing role of cell and organ culture models to analyze responses of bone cells to mechanical stimulation.

Key words

Bone Mechanical load Mechanical strain Fluid shear 



We are grateful to Arthritis Research UK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and The Wellcome Trust for their contribution to the work done in the laboratories of AAP. We would also like to thank Dr. Gul Zaman for his constructive and critical comments and Victoria Das-Gupta and Dominic Simon for their contributions to the original edition. We are also grateful to Prof. Lance Lanyon.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew A. Pitsillides
    • 1
  • Simon C. F. Rawlinson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Veterinary Basic SciencesThe Royal Veterinary CollegeLondonUK
  2. 2.Queen Mary University of London, Barts & The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Institute of DentistryLondonUK

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