Osteocytes exposed to far field of therapeutic ultrasound promotes osteogenic cellular activities in pre-osteoblasts through soluble factors

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Low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) was reported to accelerate the rate of fracture healing. When LIPUS is applied to fractures transcutaneously, bone tissues at different depths are exposed to different ultrasound fields. Measurement of LIPUS shows pressure variations in near field (nearby transducer); uniform profile was found beyond it (far field). Moreover, we have reported that the therapeutic effect of LIPUS is dependent on the axial distance of ultrasound beam in rat fracture model. However, the mechanisms of how different axial distances of LIPUS influence the mechanotransduction of bone cells are not understood. To understand the cellular mechanisms underlying far field LIPUS on enhanced fracture healing in rat model, the present study investigated the effect of ultrasound axial distances on (1) osteocyte, the mechanosensor, and (2) mechanotransduction between osteocyte and pre-osteoblast (bone-forming cell) through paracrine signaling. We hypothesized that far field LIPUS could enhance the osteogenic activities of osteoblasts via paracrine factors secreted from osteocytes. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of axial distances of LIPUS on osteocytes and osteocyte–osteoblast mechanotransduction. In this study, LIPUS (plane; 2.2 cm in diameter, 1.5 MHz sine wave, ISATA = 30 mW/cm2) was applied to osteocytes (mechanosensor) at three axial distances: 0 mm (near field), 60 mm (mid-near field) and 130 mm (far field). The conditioned medium of osteocytes (OCM) collected from these three groups were used to culture pre-osteoblasts (effector cell). In this study, (1) the direct effect of ultrasound fields on the mechanosensitivity of osteocytes; and (2) the osteogenic effect of different OCM treatments on pre-osteoblasts were assessed. The immunostaining results indicated the ultrasound beam at far field resulted in more β-catenin nuclear translocation in osteocytes than all other groups. This indicated that osteocytes could detect the acoustic differences of LIPUS at various axial distances. Furthermore, we found that the soluble factors secreted by far field LIPUS exposed osteocytes could further promote pre-osteoblasts cell migration, maturation (transition of cell proliferation into osteogenic differentiation), and matrix calcification. In summary, our results of this present study indicated that axial distance beyond near field could transmit ultrasound energy to osteocyte more efficiently. The LIPUS exposed osteocytes conveyed mechanical signals to pre-osteoblasts and regulated their osteogenic cellular activities via paracrine factors secretion. The soluble factors secreted by far field exposed osteocytes led to promotion in migration and maturation in pre-osteoblasts. This finding demonstrated the positive effects of far field LIPUS on stimulating osteocytes and promoting mechanotransduction between osteocytes and osteoblasts.

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