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The developmental skeletal growth in the rat foot is reduced after denervation

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 It has long been known that bone is innervated. In recent years it has been suggested that the local nerves may influence the growth and metabolism of bone by way of neuropeptides. The transient local presence of nerve-containing cartilage canals just before formation of secondary ossification centres in rat knee epiphyses seems to support that view. The purpose of the present study was to see if denervation affects the developmental growth of metatarsal bones in the rat hindfoot. We made sciatic and femoral neurectomies in 7- day-old rat pups and examined the hindfeet at various times after surgery. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that denervation was complete. Radiographic examination revealed that the metatarsal bones were significantly shorter in denervated hindfeet 30 days after denervation (average relative shortening 9.9±2.3%). Measurements of total foot length showed that denervated feet were subnormally sized already five days postoperatively, before the onset of secondary ossification. The timing of the latter was not affected by denervation. Control rats subjected to tenotomies exhibited normal metatarsal bone lengths. On the basis of these results we suggest that the local nerves may influence the growth of immature bones but do not affect secondary ossification.

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Accepted: 25 Janaury 1997

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Edoff, K., Hellman, J., Persliden, J. et al. The developmental skeletal growth in the rat foot is reduced after denervation. Anat Embryol 195, 531–538 (1997).

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  • Key words Metatarsal bone
  • Radiographs
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ossification
  • Cartilage