Objectives: The present study sought to determine the effects of decreased peripheral sensory nerve function on skeletal development and bone metabolism in mice.
Methods: C57BL/6 neonatal mice were treated with capsaicin to induce peripheral sensory nerve degeneration, and compared to vehicle-treated controls at 4, 8 and 12 weeks of age. Changes in bone structure were assessed using micro-computed tomography, mechanical properties and fracture resistance were assessed using three-point bending of radii, and bone turnover was assessed using dynamic histomorphometry and serum biomarkers.
Results: Capsaicin treatment resulted in small but significant decreases in bone structure, particularly affecting trabecular bone. Capsaicin-treated mice exhibited lower trabecular thickness at the femoral metaphysis and L5 vertebral body compared with vehicle-treated mice. However, capsaicin- and vehicle-treated mice had similar mechanical properties and bone turnover rates.
Conclusion: Neonatal capsaicin treatment affected trabecular bone during development; however these small changes may not be meaningful with respect to bone strength under normal loading conditions. It is possible that capsaicin-sensitive neurons may be more important for bone under stress conditions such as increased mechanical loading or injury. Future studies will investigate this potential role of peripheral sensory nerves in bone adaptation.