The role of chondrocytes in intramembranous and endochondral ossification during distraction osteogenesis in the rabbit.
Li G., Simpson AH., Triffitt JT.
We have used a rabbit leg-lengthening model for detailed studies of the histology of distraction osteogenesis. Some unusual features of the endochondral ossification that occurs during the rapid transition of cartilage to bone in the regenerate were observed. Histological staining techniques together with immunohistochemistry and nonradioactive in situ mRNA hybridization for cartilage and bone-related molecules have been used to document the presence of an overlapping cartilage-bone phenotype in cells of the cartilage-bone transitional region. In those particular areas, some chondrocytes appeared to be directly transformed into newly formed bone trabeculae which are surrounded by bone matrix. Acid phosphatases were found within the cartilage matrix in some of the cartilage/bone transitional regions and type I collagen mRNA and type II collagen protein were found together in some of the marginal hypertrophic chondrocytes. This study indicates an unusual role of chondrocytes in the process of ossification at a distraction rate of 1.3 mm/day in the rabbit. Further direct evidence is required to prove the hypothesis that the hypertrophic chondrocytes may transdifferentiate into bone cells in this model.