Recruitment of a blood supply is critical for successful bone induction and fracture healing. Despite the clinical success of distraction osteogenesis (DO), an analysis of angiogenesis during membranous bone DO has not been performed. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the temporal and spatial pattern of angiogenesis during mandibular DO. The right hemimandible of adult male rats was osteotomized, and a customized distraction device was applied. Following a 3-day latency period, distraction was begun at a rate of 0.25 mm twice daily for 6 days (3.0 mm total; 12% increase in mandibular length). Three animals each were sacrificed on days 2, 4, and 6 of distraction (D1, D2, and D3 respectively), or after 1, 2, and 4 weeks of consolidation (C1, C2, and C3 respectively). Two experienced pathologists reviewed the regenerate histology, and angiogenesis was assessed by counting the number of blood vessels per intermediate-power field (IPF). Statistical analysis was performed using analysis of variance, with p ≤ 0.05 considered significant. Results demonstrate that mandibular DO was associated with an intense vascular response during the early stages of distraction (D1). On aveage, 31.5 ± 7.9 vessels were noted in each IPF examined during this time point. The number of blood vessels in the distraction regenerate decreased significantly during the later distraction time points, with approximately 14.0 ± 2.0 and 14.7 ± 3.5 blood vessels per IPF in sections obtained after days 4 and 6 of distraction (D2, D3) respectively. However, blood vessels at these time points took on a more mature histological pattern. During the consolidation period, the number of blood vessels noted in the regenerate decreased with 8.0 ± 2.6, 9.3 ± 2.1, and 4.0 ± 2.0 vessels per IPF in sections obtained after 1, 2, or 4 weeks of consolidation (C1, C2, C3) respectively (p < 0.05 compared with vessel counts during the earliest distraction time point). This study demonstrates for the first time that an intense vascular response associated with mandibular DO occurs primarily during the early stages of distraction. The authors hypothesize that as distraction continues, newly formed vessels likely undergo consolidation, thus forming more mature vessels capable of withstanding distraction forces. Furture studies will assess the effects of therapeutic interventions designed to increase angiogenesis during DO on bony regenerate formation.
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