The Contribution of Experimental in vivo Models to Understanding the Mechanisms of Adaptation to Mechanical Loading in Bone

Lee B Meakin, Joanna S Price, Lance E Lanyon

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

75 Citations (Scopus)
284 Downloads (Pure)


Changing loading regimens by natural means such as exercise, with or without interference such as osteotomy, has provided useful information on the structure:function relationship in bone tissue. However, the greatest precision in defining those aspects of the overall strain environment that influence modeling and remodeling behavior has been achieved by relating quantified changes in bone architecture to quantified changes in bones' strain environment produced by direct, controlled artificial bone loading. Jiri Hert introduced the technique of artificial loading of bones in vivo with external devices in the 1960s using an electromechanical device to load rabbit tibiae through transfixing stainless steel pins. Quantifying natural bone strains during locomotion by attaching electrical resistance strain gages to bone surfaces was introduced by Lanyon, also in the 1960s. These studies in a variety of bones in a number of species demonstrated remarkable uniformity in the peak strains and maximum strain rates experienced. Experiments combining strain gage instrumentation with artificial loading in sheep, pigs, roosters, turkeys, rats, and mice has yielded significant insight into the control of strain-related adaptive (re)modeling. This diversity of approach has been largely superseded by non-invasive transcutaneous loading in rats and mice, which is now the model of choice for many studies. Together such studies have demonstrated that over the physiological strain range, bone's mechanically adaptive processes are responsive to dynamic but not static strains; the size and nature of the adaptive response controlling bone mass is linearly related to the peak loads encountered; the strain-related response is preferentially sensitive to high strain rates and unresponsive to static ones; is most responsive to unusual strain distributions; is maximized by remarkably few strain cycles, and that these are most effective when interrupted by short periods of rest between them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number154
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014


  • bone
  • mechanical loading
  • experimental models
  • mechanostat
  • mechanical strain


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