Distraction osteogenesis is a viable method for regenerating large amounts of bone. In contrast to fracture healing, the mode of bone formation in distraction osteogenesis is primarily intramembra-nous ossification. The basic biology of the process is still not well understood. The growth factor cascade is likely to play an important role in distraction. This study examines the growth factor cascade in a lengthened ovine mandible model. Twenty-four animals were divided into four groups with varying rates of distraction (1, 2, 3, and 4 mm/day). A unilateral distractor at the angle of the mandible was used. The mandibles were lengthened to 24 mm and fixed for a period of 5 weeks, after which the animals were killed. The sections were probed for transforming growth factor-beta, basic fibroblast growth factor, and insulin-like growth factor I. The growth factors studied were present in all four groups. Transforming growth factor-beta, basic fibroblast growth factor, and insulin-like growth factor I were present in both the bony matrix of the sections and the cytoplasm of the cells, osteoblasts, and a small number of mesenchymal cells. The sections obtained from groups distracted at faster rates showed stronger presence of the growth factors examined by more intense staining. In fracture healing, the localization of transforming growth factor-beta in stage 1 of healing corresponded with the precise region of intramembra-nous ossification in stage II. Diffuse presence of transforming growth factor-beta throughout the lengthened region corresponded with the process of intramembranous ossification observed in distraction. In fracture healing, insulin-like growth factor I and basic fibroblast growth factor have been shown to promote proliferation and differentiation of osteoblasts from precursor cells. The intense presence of insulin-like growth factor I and basic fibroblast growth factor in the distracted region may account for osteoblast proliferation and formation from precursor mesenchymal cells. Mechanical strain has been shown to increase the expression of transforming growth factor-beta and insulin-like growth factor I. Distraction may serve as a source of mechanical strain, which may explain, in part, the expression of these growth factors, particularly in the faster groups.
© 1999 Mutaz B. Habal, MD