Advances in understanding the molecular regulation of longitudinal growth have led to development of novel drug therapies for growth plate disorders. Despite progress, a major unmet challenge is delivering therapeutic agents to avascular-cartilage plates. Dense extracellular matrix and lack of penetrating blood vessels create a semipermeable "barrier," which hinders molecular transport at the vascular-cartilage interface. To overcome this obstacle, we used a hindlimb heating model to manipulate bone circulation in 5-wk-old female mice (n = 22). Temperatures represented a physiological range of normal human knee joints. We used in vivo multiphoton microscopy to quantify temperature-enhanced delivery of large molecules into tibial growth plates. We tested the hypothesis that increasing hindlimb temperature from 22°C to 34°C increases vascular access of large systemic molecules, modeled using 10, 40, and 70 kDa dextrans that approximate sizes of physiological regulators. Vascular access was quantified by vessel diameter, velocity, and dextran leakage from subperichondrial plexus vessels and accumulation in growth plate cartilage. Growth plate entry of 10 kDa dextrans increased >150% at 34°C. Entry of 40 and 70 kDa dextrans increased <50%, suggesting a size-dependent temperature enhancement. Total dextran levels in the plexus increased at 34°C, but relative leakage out of vessels was not temperature dependent. Blood velocity and vessel diameter increased 118% and 31%, respectively, at 34°C. These results demonstrate that heat enhances vascular carrying capacity and bioavailability of large molecules around growth plates, suggesting that temperature could be a noninvasive strategy for modulating delivery of therapeutics to impaired growth plates of children.
Keywords: blood; bone; cartilage; dextrans; epiphyseal plate; extracellular matrix; multiphoton microscopy; nutrient supply; permeability; skeleton; temperature; vascular access.