Ectopic bone formation in severely combat-injured orthopedic patients - A hematopoietic niche

Thomas A. Davis*, Yelena Lazdun, Benjamin K. Potter, Jonathan A. Forsberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Combat-related heterotopic ossification (HO) has emerged as a common and problematic complication of modern wartime extremity injuries, contributing to substantial patient morbidity and loss of function. We have previously reported that HO-forming patients exhibit a more pronounced systemic and local inflammatory response very early in the wound healing process. Moreover, traumatized muscle-derived mesenchymal progenitor cells from these patients have a skewed differentiation potential toward bone. Here, we demonstrate that HO lesions excised from this patient population contain highly vascularized, mature, cancellous bone containing adipogenic marrow. Histologic analysis showed immature hematopoietic cells located within distinct foci in perivascular regions. The adipogenic marrow often contained low numbers of functional erythroid (BFU-E), myeloid (CFU-GM, CFU-M) and multilineage (CFU-GEMM) colony-forming hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs). Conversely, tissue from control muscle and non-HO traumatic wound granulation tissue showed no evidence of hematopoietic progenitor cell activity. In summary, our findings suggest that ectopic bone can provide an appropriate hematopoietic microenvironment for supporting the proliferation and differentiation of HPCs. This reactive and vibrant cell population may help maintain normal hematopoietic function, particularly in those with major extremity amputations who have sustained both massive blood loss, prompting systemic marrow stimulation, as well as loss of available native active marrow space. These findings begin to characterize the functional biology of ectopic bone and elucidate the interactions between HPC and non-hematopoietic cell types within the ectopic intramedullary hematopoietic microenvironmental niche identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-126
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Ectopic bone
  • Extremity injuries
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Hematopoietic niche
  • Heterotopic ossification


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