Models of ex vivo explant cultures: applications in bone research
Silvia Marino, Katherine Ann Staines, Genevieve Brown, Rachel Anne Howard-Jones and Magdalena Adamczyk
Ex vivo explant culture models are powerful tools in bone research. They allow investigation of bone and cartilage responses to specific stimuli in a controlled manner that closely mimics the in vivo processes. Because of limitations in obtaining healthy human bone samples the explant growth of animal tissue serves as a platform to study the complex physico-chemical properties of the bone. Moreover, these models enable preserving important cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions in order to better understand the behaviour of cells in their natural three-dimensional environment. Thus, the use of bone ex vivo explant cultures can frequently be of more physiological relevance than the use of two-dimensional primary cells grown in vitro. Here, we describe isolation and ex vivo growth of different animal bone explant models including metatarsals, femoral heads, calvaria, mandibular slices and trabecular cores. We also describe how these explants are utilised to study bone development, cartilage and bone metabolism, cancer-induced bone diseases, stem cell-driven bone repair and mechanoadaptation. These techniques can be directly used to understand mechanisms linked with bone physiology or bone-associated diseases.