Mechanical Loading Attenuates Radiation-Induced Bone Loss in Bone Marrow Transplanted Mice

PLoS One. 2016 Dec 9;11(12):e0167673. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167673. eCollection 2016.


Exposure of bone to ionizing radiation, as occurs during radiotherapy for some localized malignancies and blood or bone marrow cancers, as well as during space travel, incites dose-dependent bone morbidity and increased fracture risk. Rapid trabecular and endosteal bone loss reflects acutely increased osteoclastic resorption as well as decreased bone formation due to depletion of osteoprogenitors. Because of this dysregulation of bone turnover, bone's capacity to respond to a mechanical loading stimulus in the aftermath of irradiation is unknown. We employed a mouse model of total body irradiation and bone marrow transplantation simulating treatment of hematologic cancers, hypothesizing that compression loading would attenuate bone loss. Furthermore, we hypothesized that loading would upregulate donor cell presence in loaded tibias due to increased engraftment and proliferation. We lethally irradiated 16 female C57Bl/6J mice at age 16 wks with 10.75 Gy, then IV-injected 20 million GFP(+) total bone marrow cells. That same day, we initiated 3 wks compression loading (1200 cycles 5x/wk, 10 N) in the right tibia of 10 of these mice while 6 mice were irradiated, non-mechanically-loaded controls. As anticipated, before-and-after microCT scans demonstrated loss of trabecular bone (-48.2% Tb.BV/TV) and cortical thickness (-8.3%) at 3 wks following irradiation. However, loaded bones lost 31% less Tb.BV/TV and 8% less cortical thickness (both p<0.001). Loaded bones also had significant increases in trabecular thickness and tissue mineral densities from baseline. Mechanical loading did not affect donor cell engraftment. Importantly, these results demonstrate that both cortical and trabecular bone exposed to high-dose therapeutic radiation remain capable of an anabolic response to mechanical loading. These findings inform our management of bone health in cases of radiation exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation*
  • Bone Resorption / etiology*
  • Bone Resorption / pathology
  • Bone Resorption / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Tibia / pathology
  • Tibia / radiation effects*
  • Weight-Bearing*
  • Whole-Body Irradiation / adverse effects*

Grant support

This research was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (Grant number 7 R01 AR068132 17). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.