An in vitro model for the development of mature bone containing an osteocyte network

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Harsh Amin
  • Sara Rankin
  • Clarence Yapp
  • Alistair Bannerman
  • Alexandra Pacureanu
  • Philippa Hulley

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Inflammation, Development and RepairNational Heart & Lung InstituteFaculty of MedicineImperial College LondonLondon SW7 2AZ, UK
  • Centre for Blast Injury StudiesDepartment of BioengineeringImperial College LondonLondon SW7 2AZ, UK
  • Department of Cell BiologyHarvard Medical School240 Longwood Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  • European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
  • University of Oxford


Bone is a dynamic tissue that remodels continuously in response to local mechanical and chemical stimuli. This process can also result in maladaptive ectopic bone in response to injury, yet pathological differences at the molecular and structural levels are poorly understood. A number of in vivo models exist but can often be too complex to allow isolation of factors which may stimulate disease progression. A self-structuring model of bone formation is presented using a fibrin gel cast between two calcium phosphate ceramic anchors. Femoral periosteal cells, seeded into these structures, deposit an ordered matrix that closely resembles mature bone in terms of chemistry (collagen:mineral ratio) and structure, which is adapted over a period of one year in culture. Raman spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction confirm that the mineral is hydroxyapatite associated with collagen. Second-harmonic imaging demonstrates that collagen is organized similarly to mature mouse femora. Remarkably, cells differentiated to the osteocyte phase are linked by canaliculi (as demonstrated with nano-computed tomography) and remained viable over the full year of culture. It is demonstrated that novel drugs can prevent ossification in constructs. This model can be employed to study bone formation in an effort to encourage or prevent ossification in a range of pathologies.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1700156
Number of pages12
JournalAdvanced Biosystems
Issue number2
Early online date22 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018