Cranial defects can result from trauma, infection, congenital malformations, and iatrogenic causes and represent a surgical challenge. The current standard of care is cranioplasty, with either autologous or allogeneic material. In either case, the intrinsic vascularity of the surrounding tissues allows for bone healing. The objective of this study was to determine if mechanotransductive gene manipulation would yield non–weight-bearing bone regeneration in a critical size calvarial defect in mice.
A mouse model of Sost deletion in Sost knockout (KO) mice was created in which the osteocytes do not express sclerostin. A critical size calvarial defect (4 mm in diameter) was surgically created in the parietal bone in 8-week-old wild-type (n = 8) and Sost KO (n = 8) male mice. The defects were left undisturbed (no implant or scaffold) to simulate a traumatic calvariectomy model. Eight weeks later, the animals were examined at necropsy by planimetry, histological analysis of new bone growth, and micro-CT scanning of bone thickness.
Defects created in wild-type mice did not fill with bone over the study period of 2 months. Genetic downregulation of sclerostin yielded animals that were able to regenerate 40% of the initial critical size defect area 8 weeks after surgery. A thin layer of bone covered a significant portion of the original defect in all Sost KO animals. A statistically significant increase in bone volume (p < 0.05) was measured in Sost KO mice using radiodensitometric analysis. Immunohistochemical analysis also confirmed that this bone regeneration occurred through the Wnt pathway and originated from the edge of the defect; BMP signaling did not appear to be affected by sclerostin.
Mechanical loading is an important mechanism of bone formation in the cranial skeleton and is poorly understood. This is partially due to the fact that it is difficult to load bone in the craniomaxillofacial skeleton. This study suggests that modulation of the Wnt pathway, as is able to be done with monoclonal antibodies, is a potentially efficacious method for bone regeneration that requires further study.