Effects of aging on osteogenic response and heterotopic ossification following burn injury in Mice

Jonathan R. Peterson, Oluwatobi N. Eboda, R. Cameron Brownley, Katherine E. Cilwa, Lauren E. Pratt, Sara De La Rosa, Shailesh Agarwal, Steven R. Buchman, Paul S. Cederna, Michael D. Morris, Stewart C. Wang, Benjamin Levi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a common and debilitating complication of burns, traumatic brain injuries, and musculoskeletal trauma and surgery. Although the exact mechanism of ectopic bone formation is unknown, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) capable of osteogenic differentiation are known to play an essential role. Interestingly, the prevalence of HO in the elderly population is low despite the high overall occurrence of musculoskeletal injury and orthopedic procedures. We hypothesized that a lower osteogenicity of MSCs would be associated with blunted HO formation in old compared with young mice. In vitro osteogenic differentiation of adipose-derived MSCs from old (18-20 months) and young (6-8 weeks) C57/BL6 mice was assessed, with or without preceding burn injury. In vivo studies were then performed using an Achilles tenotomy with concurrent burn injury HO model. HO formation was quantified using μCT scans, Raman spectroscopy, and histology. MSCs from young mice had more in vitro bone formation, upregulation of bone formation pathways, and higher activation of Smad and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) signaling following burn injury. This effect was absent or blunted in cells from old mice. In young mice, burn injury significantly increased HO formation, NF-κB activation, and osteoclast activity at the tenotomy site. This blunted, reactive osteogenic response in old mice follows trends seen clinically and may be related to differences in the ability to mount acute inflammatory responses. This unique characterization of HO and MSC osteogenic differentiation following inflammatory insult establishes differences between age populations and suggests potential pathways that could be targeted in the future with therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


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