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  • Author: R O C Oreffo x
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Joanna S. Price, Babatunde O. Oyajobi, Richard O. C. Oreffo and R. Graham G. Russell


Deer antler growth provides a unique natural model of rapid and complete bone regeneration. In this study, the distal antler tips of male red deer (Cervus elaphus) were collected post-mortem during the annual growth period (April-August), and an in vitro system established for the culture of cells from three regions; the inner layer of the perichondrium, the reserve mesenchyme and the cartilage zone. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) expression by cultured cells, as demonstrated by enzyme histochemistry and biochemical assay, reflected the stage of cellular differentiation. ALP activity was highest in cells cultured from the hypertrophic cartilage region (3.6 ± 0.2 μmol/μg cell protein/minute), and lowest in undifferentiated mesenchymal cells (0.3 ± 0.01 μmol/μg cell protein/minute). ALP expression was lost with passage in culture. Levels of ALP activity in cultured cells correlated with the pattern and extent of enzyme expression in tissue sections as demonstrated by histochemical staining. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I (10−9M-10−7M) was found to be mitogenic for cultured cells from all three zones as shown by increased incorporation of [3H]thymidine into DNA. These results demonstrate that cells from three different regions of the antler tip can be maintained in culture, and that antler cells share certain phenotypic characteristics of growth plate chondrocytes. These data provide further evidence of a role for IGF-1 in the regulation of antler growth. Antler regrowth is a potentially useful model for the study of the factors that regulate bone formation.

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S A Lanham, A L Fowden, C Roberts, C Cooper, R O C Oreffo and A J Forhead

Thyroid hormones are important for normal bone growth and development in postnatal life. However, little is known about the role of thyroid hormones in the control of bone development in the fetus. Using computed tomography and mechanical testing, the structure and strength of metatarsal bones were measured in sheep fetuses in which thyroid hormone levels were altered by thyroidectomy or adrenalectomy. In intact fetuses, plasma concentrations of total calcium and the degradation products of C-terminal telopeptides of type I collagen increased between 100 and 144 days of gestation (term 145±2 days), in association with various indices of bone growth and development. Thyroid hormone deficiency induced by thyroidectomy at 105–110 days of gestation caused growth retardation of the fetus and significant changes in metatarsal bone structure and strength when analyzed at both 130 and 144 days of gestation. In hypothyroid fetuses, trabecular bone was stronger with thicker, more closely spaced trabeculae, despite lower bone mineral density. Plasma osteocalcin was reduced by fetal thyroidectomy. Removal of the fetal adrenal gland at 115–120 days of gestation, and prevention of the prepartum rises in cortisol and triiodothyronine, had no effect on bodyweight, limb lengths, metatarsal bone structure or strength, or circulating markers of bone metabolism in the fetuses studied near term. This study demonstrates that hypothyroidism in utero has significant effects on the structure and strength of bone, with different consequences for cortical and trabecular bone.