Disuse rescues the age-impaired adaptive response to external loading in mice

Lee B Meakin, Peter J Delisser, Gabriel Galea, Lance E Lanyon, Joanna Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
209 Downloads (Pure)



We aimed to determine whether aged bone’s diminished response to mechanical loading could be rescued by modulating habitual activity. By reducing background loading, aged bone’s response to loading increased to a level no different to young mice. This suggests, given the right stimulus, that ageing bone can respond to mechanical loading.


Age-related decline in bone mass has been suggested to represent an impaired ability of bone to adapt to its mechanical environment. In young mice, the tibia’s response to external mechanical loading has been shown to increase when habitual activity is reduced by sciatic neurectomy. Here we investigate if neurectomy can rescue bone’s response to loading in old mice.


The effect of tibial disuse, induced by unilateral sciatic neurectomy (SN), on the adaptive response to a single peak magnitude of dynamic load-engendered mechanical strain was assessed in 19-month-old (aged) mice. In a second experiment, a range of peak loads was used to assess the load magnitude-related effects of loading on a background of disuse in young adult and aged mice. Bone architecture was analysed using micro-computed tomography (μCT) and dynamic histomorphometry.


In the first experiment, SN in aged mice was associated with a significant periosteal osteogenic response to loading not observed in sham-operated mice (7.98 ± 1.7 vs 1.02 ± 2.2 % increase in periosteally enclosed area, p  < 0.05). In the second experiment, SN abrogated the expected age-related difference in the bones’ osteogenic response to peak strain magnitude (p > 0.05).


These data suggest that bones’ age-related decline in osteogenic responsiveness to loading does not originate in bone cells to either assess, or appropriately respond to strain, but rather is likely to be due to inhibitory “averaging” effects derived from the habitual strains to which the bone is already adapted. If such “strain averaging” is applicable to humans, it suggests that gentle exercise may degrade the beneficially osteogenic effects of short periods of more vigorous activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2703-2708
Number of pages6
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number11
Early online date29 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Bone
  • Habitual activity
  • Mechanical loading
  • Neurectomy


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