Rat mandibular distraction osteogenesis: Part III. Gradual distraction versus acute lengthening
Distraction osteogenesis is a well-established method of endogenous tissue engineering. This technique has significantly augmented our armamentarium of reconstructive craniofacial procedures. Although the histologic and ultrastructural changes associated with distraction osteogenesis have been extensively described, the molecular mechanisms governing successful membranous distraction remain unknown. Using an established rat model, the molecular differences between successful (i.e., osseous union with gradual distraction) and ineffective (i.e., fibrous union with acute lengthening) membranous bone lengthening was analyzed. Herein, the first insight into the molecular mechanisms of successful membranous bone distraction is provided. In addition, these data provide the foundation for future targeted therapeutic manipulations designed to improve osseous regeneration. Vertical mandibular osteotomies were created in 52 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats, and the animals were fitted with customized distraction devices. Twenty-six animals underwent immediate acute lengthening (3 mm; a length previously shown to result in fibrous union) and 26 animals were gradually distracted (after a 3-day latency period, animals were distracted 0.25 mm twice daily for 6 days; total = 3 mm). Four mandibular regenerates were harvested from each group for RNA analysis on 5, 7, 9, 23, and 37 days postoperatively (n = 40). Two mandibular regenerates were also harvested from each group and prepared for immunohistochemistry on postoperative days 5, 7, and 37 (n = 12). In addition to the 52 experimental animals, 4 control rats underwent sham operations (skin incision only) and mandibular RNA was immediately collected. Control and experimental specimens were analyzed for collagen I, osteocalcin, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1, and vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA and protein expression. In this study, marked elevation of critical extracellular matrix molecules (osteocalcin and collagen I) during the consolidation phase of gradual distraction compared with acute lengthening is demonstrated. In addition, the expression of an inhibitor of extracellular matrix turnover, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1, remained strikingly elevated in gradually distracted animals. Finally, this study demonstrated that neither gradual distraction nor acute lengthening appreciably alters vascular endothelial growth factor expression. These results suggest that gradual distraction osteogenesis promotes successful osseous bone repair by regulating the expression of bone-specific extracellular matrix molecules. In contrast, decreased production or increased turnover of bone scaffolding proteins (i.e., collagen) or regulators of mineralization (i.e., osteocalcin) may lead to fibrous union during acute lengthening.