Bone loss occurs during adulthood in both women and men and affects trabecular bone more than cortical bone. The mechanism responsible for trabecular bone loss during adulthood remains unexplained, but may be due at least in part to a reduced mechanoresponsiveness. We hypothesized that trabecular and cortical bone would respond anabolically to loading and that the bone response to mechanical loading would be reduced and the onset delayed in adult compared to postpubescent mice. We evaluated the longitudinal adaptive response of trabecular and cortical bone in postpubescent, young (10 week old) and adult (26 week old) female C57Bl/6J mice to axial tibial compression using in vivo microCT (days 0, 5, 10, and 15) and dynamic histomorphometry (day 15). Loading elicited an anabolic response in both trabecular and cortical bone in young and adult mice. As hypothesized, trabecular bone in adult mice exhibited a reduced and delayed response to loading compared to the young mice, apparent in trabecular bone volume fraction and architecture after 10 days. No difference in mechanoresponsiveness of the cortical bone was observed between young and adult mice. Finite element analysis showed that load-induced strain was reduced with age. Our results suggest that trabecular bone loss that occurs in adulthood may in part be due to a reduced mechanoresponsiveness in this tissue and/or a reduction in the induced tissue deformation which occurs during habitual loading. Therapeutic approaches that address the mechanoresponsiveness of the bone tissue may be a promising and alternate strategy to maintain trabecular bone mass during aging.
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