Spinal cord injury causes rapid osteoclastic resorption and growth plate abnormalities in growing rats (SCI-induced bone loss in growing rats)

L. Morse*, Y. D. Teng, L. Pham, K. Newton, D. Yu, W. L. Liao, T. Kohler, R. Müller, D. Graves, P. Stashenko, R. Battaglino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Summary: Spinal cord injury causes severe bone loss. We report osteoclast resorption with severe trabecular and cortical bone loss, decreased bone mineral apposition, and growth plate abnormalities in a rodent model of contusion spinal cord injury. These findings will help elucidate the mechanisms of osteoporosis following neurological trauma. Introduction: Limited understanding of the mechanism(s) that underlie spinal cord injury (SCI)-induced bone loss has led to few treatment options. As SCI-induced osteoporosis carries significant morbidity and can worsen already profound disability, there is an urgency to advance knowledge regarding this pathophysiology. Methods: A clinically relevant contusion model of experimental spinal cord injury was used to generate severe lower thoracic SCI by weight-drop (10 g×50 mm) in adolescent male Sprague-Dawley rats. Body weight and gender-matched naïve (no surgery) rats served as controls. Bone microarchitecture was determined by micro-computed tomographic imaging. Mature osteoclasts were identified by TRAP staining and bone apposition rate was determined by dynamic histomorphometry. Results: At 10 days post-injury we detected a marked 48% decrease in trabecular bone and a 35% decrease in cortical bone at the distal femoral metaphysis by micro-CT. A 330% increase in the number of mature osteoclasts was detected at the growth plate in the injured animals that corresponded with cellular disorganization at the chondro-osseous junction. Appositional growth studies demonstrated decreased new bone formation with a mineralization defect indicative of osteoblast dysfunction. Conclusions: Contusion SCI results in a rapid bone loss that is the result of increased bone resorption and decreased bone formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-652
Number of pages8
JournalOsteoporosis International
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Bone
  • Osteoclast
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rehabilitation medicine
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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