Osteogenic effects of traumatic brain injury on experimental fracture-healing

Matthew Boes, Michael Kain, Sanjeev Kakar, Fred Nicholls, Dennis Cullinane, Louis Gerstenfeld, Thomas A. Einhorn, Paul Tornetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Background: Heterotopic bone formation has been observed in patients with traumatic brain injury; however, an association between such an injury and enhanced fracture-healing remains unclear. To test the hypothesis that traumatic brain injury causes a systemic response that enhances fracture-healing, we established a reproducible model of traumatic brain injury in association with a standard closed fracture and measured the osteogenic response with an in vitro cell assay and assessed bone-healing with biomechanical testing. Methods: A standard closed femoral fracture was produced in forty-three Sprague-Dawley rats. Twenty-three of the rats were subjected to additional closed head trauma that produced diffuse axonal injury similar to that observed in patients with a traumatic brain injury. Twenty-one days after the procedure, all animals were killed and fracture-healing was assessed by measuring callus size and by mechanical testing. Sera from the animals were used in subsequent in vitro experiments to measure mitogenic effects on established cell lines of committed osteoblasts, fibroblasts, and mesenchymal stem cells. Results: Biomechanical assessment demonstrated that the brain-injury group had increased stiffness (p = 0.02) compared with the fracture-only group. There was no significant difference in torsional strength between the two groups. Cell culture studies showed a significant increase in the proliferative response of mesenchymal stem cells after exposure to sera from the brain-injury group compared with the response after exposure to sera from the fracture-only group (p = 0.0002). This effect was not observed in fibroblasts or committed osteoblasts. Conclusions: These results support data from previous studies that have suggested an increased osteogenic potential and an enhancement of fracture-healing secondary to traumatic brain injury. Our results further suggest that the mechanism for this enhancement is related to the presence of factors in the serum that have a mitogenic effect on undifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells. Clinical Relevance: Fracture-healing may be enhanced by an associated traumatic brain injury. Further understanding of this systemic response could lead to important insights about systemic therapeutic strategies for the enhancement of skeletal repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-743
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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