An animal model was developed to study the histology and collagen chemistry of healing cortical bone. A hole was cut through the cortex of the mid-shaft of the humerus of the adult chicken, which allowed for repair at a mechanically stable site. After one to two weeks the collagen of the repair tissue, which consisted principally of woven bone, contained almost three times as much hydroxylysine as the collagen of normal adult bone and thus resembled the collagen of embryonic long bones. By eight weeks, when lamellar one predominated, the hydroxylysine content had fallen to normal levels. Type I was the major genetic type of collagen present throughout. No type-II collagen, characteristic of cartilage, was detected; this was consistent with the histological findings. The results established that hydroxylysine-rich type-I collagen can be made by osteoblasts of adult animals as well as by those of embryos and early postnates.
Clinical relevance: In order to understand the biological characteristics of fracture healing, it is vital to study not only the macroscopic organization of the repair tissue but also the chemical properties of its molecular components. The strength of healing fractured bone, and indeed of normal bone, depends largely on the properties of the structural protein collagen. To date, it is not known whether the collagen in healing fractures is the same as that in normal bone, or whether it has distinct chemical features that may suit it for bone repair.