Spatio-temporal characterization of fracture healing patterns and assessment of biomaterials by time-lapsed in vivo micro-computed tomography

Esther Wehrle, Duncan C. Tourolle né Betts, Gisela A. Kuhn, Erica Floreani, Malavika H. Nambiar, Bryant J. Schroeder, Sandra Hofmann & Ralph Müller

Published: 21 April 2021


Thorough preclinical evaluation of functionalized biomaterials for treatment of large bone defects is essential prior to clinical application. Using in vivo micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) and mouse femoral defect models with different defect sizes, we were able to detect spatio-temporal healing patterns indicative of physiological and impaired healing in three defect sub-volumes and the adjacent cortex. The time-lapsed in vivo micro-CT-based approach was then applied to evaluate the bone regeneration potential of functionalized biomaterials using collagen and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP-2). Both collagen and BMP-2 treatment led to distinct changes in bone turnover in the different healing phases. Despite increased periosteal bone formation, 87.5% of the defects treated with collagen scaffolds resulted in non-unions. Additional BMP-2 application significantly accelerated the healing process and increased the union rate to 100%. This study further shows potential of time-lapsed in vivo micro-CT for capturing spatio-temporal deviations preceding non-union formation and how this can be prevented by application of functionalized biomaterials. This study therefore supports the application of longitudinal in vivo micro-CT for discrimination of normal and disturbed healing patterns and for the spatio-temporal characterization of the bone regeneration capacity of functionalized biomaterials.


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