Brief review of models of ectopic bone formation

Michelle A. Scott, Benjamin Levi, Asal Askarinam, Alan Nguyen, Todd Rackohn, Ting Kang, Soo Chia, Aaron W. James*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


Ectopic bone formation is a unique biologic entity-distinct from other areas of skeletal biology. Animal research models of ectopic bone formation most often employ rodent models and have unique advantages over orthotopic (bone) environments, including a relative lack of bone cytokine stimulation and cell-to-cell interaction with endogenous (host) bone-forming cells. This allows for relatively controlled in vivo experimental bone formation. A wide variety of ectopic locations have been used for experimentation, including subcutaneous, intramuscular, and kidney capsule transplantation. The method, benefits and detractions of each method are summarized in the following review. Briefly, subcutaneous implantation is the simplest method. However, the most pertinent concern is the relative paucity of bone formation in comparison to other models. Intramuscular implantation is also widely used and relatively simple, however intramuscular implants are exposed to skeletal muscle satellite progenitor cells. Thus, distinguishing host from donor osteogenesis becomes challenging without cell-tracking studies. The kidney capsule (perirenal or renal capsule) method is less widely used and more technically challenging. It allows for supraphysiologic blood and nutrient resource, promoting robust bone growth. In summary, ectopic bone models are extremely useful in the evaluation of bone-forming stem cells, new osteoinductive biomaterials, and growth factors; an appropriate choice of model, however, will greatly increase experimental success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-667
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


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