Human Spinal Bone Dust as a Potential Local Autograft: In Vitro Potent Anabolic Effect on Human Osteoblasts

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Study Design.

In vitro Study.


To evaluate the effect that factors released from human posterior spinal bone dust have on primary human osteoblast growth and maturation.

Summary of Background Data.

Bone dust, created during spinal fusion surgeries, has the potential to be used as an autologous bone graft by providing a source of viable autologous osteoblasts and mesenchymal stem cells with osteogenic potential. Till date, no information is available on whether bone dust also provides a source of anabolic factors with the potential to enhance osteoblast proliferation and maturation, which would enhance its therapeutic potential.


Bone dust was collected from consenting patients undergoing elective posterior spinal fusion surgeries, and primary human osteoblasts were cultured from patients undergoing elective hip or knee arthroplasty. Growth factors and cytokines released by bone dust were quantified using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Primary human osteoblast proliferation and gene expression in response to bone dust were assessed using 3H-thymidine incorporation and real-time polymerase chain reaction, respectively.


Human bone dust released anabolic cytokines (IL-1β and IL-6) and growth factors (TGF-β, VEGF, FGF-Basic, and PDGF-BB) in increasing concentrations over a 7-day period. In vitro, the anabolic factors released by bone dust increased osteoblast proliferation by 7-fold, compared with osteoblasts cultured alone. In addition, the factors released from bone dust up-regulated a number of osteoblastic genes integral to osteoblast differentiation, maturation, and angiogenesis.


This study is the first to demonstrate that human posterior spinal bone dust released anabolic factors that potently enhance osteoblast proliferation and the expression of genes that favor bone healing and bone union. As bone dust is anabolic and its harvest is fast, simple, and safe to perform, spinal surgeons should be encouraged to ‘recycle’ bone dust and harness the regenerative potential of this free autologous bone graft.


Level of Evidence: N/A

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