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A Study in Vivo of the Effects of a Static Compressive Load on the Proximal Tibial Physis in Rabbits
Andrew D. Bries, MD1; Dennis S. Weiner, MD2; Robin Jacquet, MS3; Mark J. Adamczyk, MD2; Melanie A. Morscher, BS2; Elizabeth Lowder, BS3; Michael J. Askew, PhD1; Richard P. Steiner, PhD3; Walter I. Horne, DVM4; William J. Landis, PhD3
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Summa Health System, 400 North Main Street, Akron, OH 44310
2 Department of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery, Akron Children’s Hospital, One Perkins Square, Akron, OH 44308
3 Departments of Polymer Science (R.J., E.L., and W.J.L.) and Statistics (R.P.S.), The University of Akron, 170 University Avenue, Akron, OH 44325. E-mail address for W.J. Landis: wlandis@uakron.edu
4 Comparative Medicine Unit, Northeast Ohio Medical University, 4209 State Route 44, Rootstown, OH 44272
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Investigation performed at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, Ohio, and The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio

Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. In addition, one or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Aug 01;94(15):e111 1-10. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00340
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The effect of compression on the physis is generally defined by the Hueter-Volkmann principle, in which decreased linear growth of the physis results from increased compression. This investigation examined whether mechanically induced compression of rabbit physes causes changes in gene expression, cells, and extracellular components that promote physeal resilience and strength (type-II collagen and aggrecan) and cartilage hypertrophy (type-X collagen and matrix metalloprotease-13).


Static compressive loads (10 N or 30 N) were applied for two or six weeks across one hind limb proximal tibial physis of thirteen-week-old female New Zealand White rabbits (n = 18). The contralateral hind limb in all rabbits underwent sham surgery with no load to serve as an internal control. Harvested physes were divided into portions for histological, immunohistochemical, and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis. Gene expression was statistically analyzed by means of comparisons between loaded samples and unloaded shams with use of analysis of variance and a Tukey post hoc test.


Compared with unloaded shams, physes loaded at 10 N or 30 N for two weeks and at 10 N for six weeks showed histological changes in cells and matrices. Physes loaded at 30 N for six weeks were decreased in thickness and had structurally disorganized chondrocyte columns, a decreased extracellular matrix, and less intense type-II and X collagen immunohistochemical staining. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis of loaded samples compared with unloaded shams yielded a significantly (p ≤ 0.05) decreased gene expression of aggrecan and type-II and X collagen and no significant (p > 0.05) changes in the matrix metalloprotease-13 gene expression with increasing load.


Compressed rabbit physes generate biochemical changes in collagens, proteoglycan, and cellular and tissue matrix architecture. Changes potentially weaken overall physeal strength, consistent with the Hueter-Volkmann principle, and lend understanding of the causes of pathological conditions of the physis.

Clinical Relevance: 

Compressive forces across rabbit tibial physes cause changes in cartilage molecular biology, biochemistry, and structure, which may provide insight into disorders of the open physis in humans.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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