Proposal for the regulatory mechanism of Wolff's law

M. G. Mullender, R. Huiskes

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It is currently believed that the trabecular structure in bone is the result of a dynamic remodeling process controlled by mechanical loads. We propose a regulatory mechanism based on the hypothesis that osteocytes located within the bone sense mechanical signals and that these cells mediate osteoclasts and osteoblasts in their vicinity to adapt bone mass. A computer‐simulation model based on these assumptions was used to investigate if the adaptation of bone, in the sense of Wolff's law, and remodeling phenomena, as observed in reality, can be explained by such a local control process. The model produced structures resembling actual trabecular architectures. The architecture transformed after the external loads were changed, aligning the trabeculae with the actual principal stress orientation, in accordance with Wolff's trajectorial hypothesis. As in reality, the relative apparent density of the structure depended on the magnitude of the applied stresses. Osteocyte density influenced the remodeling rate, which also is consistent with experimental findings. Furthermore, the results indicated that the domain of influence of the osteocytes affects the refinement of the structure as represented by separation and thickness of the struts. We concluded that the trabecular adaptation to mechanical load, as described by Wolff, can be explained by a relatively simple regulatory model. The model is useful for investigating the effects of physiological parameters on the development, maintenance, and adaptation of bone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-512
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of orthopaedic research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes

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