Biology of Bone Formation, Fracture Healing, and Distraction Osteogenesis

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Distraction osteogenesis is a bone-regenerative process in which an osteotomy is followed by distraction of the surrounding vascularized bone segments, with formation of new bone within the distraction gap. Distraction osteogenesis is efficacious for reconstructing critical sized bony defects in the appendicular and craniofacial skeleton. To provide opportunity to expand applications of distraction osteogenesis, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the underlying molecular biology and physiology of bone development and fracture healing. To accomplish these objectives a review of the literature was performed using search terms “endochondral ossification, intramembranous ossification, craniofacial skeleton, appendicular skeleton, fracture healing, bone development, and distraction osteogenesis.” Bones of the craniofacial and appendicular skeleton have distinct mechanisms of embryonic development. The former develops from growth centers of mesenchymal precursors through intramembranous ossification. The latter forms though endochondral ossification in growth plates. However, both endochondral and intramembranous bone share similar master regulatory transcription factors and downstream growth factors. Fracture healing mirrors the pathway by which these bones developed embryonically. In contrast, bone formed by distraction osteogenesis does so by intramembranous ossification, regardless of whether it occurs within the appendicular or craniofacial skeleton. Understanding molecular pathway differences between bone formation by these mechanisms may allow for optimization and expansion of skeletal reconstruction by distraction osteogenesis

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