Contribution of mechanical unloading to trabecular bone loss following non-invasive knee injury in mice

J Orthop Res. 2016 Oct;34(10):1680-1687. doi: 10.1002/jor.23178. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Development of osteoarthritis commonly involves degeneration of epiphyseal trabecular bone. In previous studies, we observed 30-44% loss of epiphyseal trabecular bone (BV/TV) from the distal femur within 1 week following non-invasive knee injury in mice. Mechanical unloading (disuse) may contribute to this bone loss; however, it is unclear to what extent the injured limb is unloaded following injury, and whether disuse can fully account for the observed magnitude of bone loss. In this study, we investigated the contribution of mechanical unloading to trabecular bone changes observed following non-invasive knee injury in mice (female C57BL/6N). We investigated changes in gait during treadmill walking, and changes in voluntary activity level using Open Field analysis at 4, 14, 28, and 42 days post-injury. We also quantified epiphyseal trabecular bone using μCT and weighed lower-limb muscles to quantify atrophy following knee injury in both ground control and hindlimb unloaded (HLU) mice. Gait analysis revealed a slightly altered stride pattern in the injured limb, with a decreased stance phase and increased swing phase. However, Open Field analysis revealed no differences in voluntary movement between injured and sham mice at any time point. Both knee injury and HLU resulted in comparable magnitudes of trabecular bone loss; however, HLU resulted in considerably more muscle loss than knee injury, suggesting another mechanism contributing to bone loss following injury. Altogether, these data suggest that mechanical unloading likely contributes to trabecular bone loss following non-invasive knee injury, but the magnitude of this bone loss cannot be fully explained by disuse. © 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 34:1680-1687, 2016.

Keywords: hindlimb unloading; knee injury; mechanical loading; post-traumatic osteoarthritis; trabecular bone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cancellous Bone / pathology
  • Female
  • Gait
  • Hindlimb Suspension / physiology
  • Knee Injuries / complications*
  • Knee Injuries / pathology
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*
  • Weight-Bearing
  • X-Ray Microtomography


  • Biomarkers