Preclinical models for in vitro mechanical loading of bone-derived cells
Robin Michael Delaine-Smith, Behzad Javaheri, Jennifer Helen Edwards, Marisol Vazquez and Robin Mark Howard Rumney
It is well established that bone responds to mechanical stimuli whereby physical forces are translated into chemical signals between cells, via mechanotransduction. It is difficult however to study the precise cellular and molecular responses using in vivo systems. In vitro loading models, which aim to replicate forces found within the bone microenvironment, make the underlying processes of mechanotransduction accessible to the researcher. Direct measurements in vivo and predictive modeling have been used to define these forces in normal physiological and pathological states. The types of mechanical stimuli present in the bone include vibration, fluid shear, substrate deformation and compressive loading, which can all be applied in vitro to monolayer and three-dimensional (3D) cultures. In monolayer, vibration can be readily applied to cultures via a low-magnitude, high-frequency loading rig. Fluid shear can be applied to cultures in multiwell plates via a simple rocking platform to engender gravitational fluid movement or via a pump to cells attached to a slide within a parallel-plate flow chamber, which may be micropatterned for use with osteocytes. Substrate strain can be applied via the vacuum-driven FlexCell system or via a four-point loading jig. 3D cultures better replicate the bone microenvironment and can also be subjected to the same forms of mechanical stimuli as monolayer, including vibration, fluid shear via perfusion flow, strain or compression. 3D cocultures that more closely replicate the bone microenvironment can be used to study the collective response of several cell types to loading. This technical review summarizes the methods for applying mechanical stimuli to bone cells in vitro.