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Longitudinal bone growth is accomplished through a process where proliferating chondrocytes produce cartilage in the growth plate, which ultimately ossifies. Environmental influences, like mechanical loading, can moderate the growth of this cartilage, which can alter bone length. However, little is known about how specific behaviors like bipedalism, which is characterized by a shift in body mass (mechanical load), to the lower limbs, may impact bone growth. This study uses an experimental approach to induce bipedal behaviors in a rodent model (Rattus norvegicus) over a 12-week period using a treadmill-mounted harness system to test how rat hindlimbs respond to the following loading conditions: 1) fully loaded bipedal walking, 2) partially loaded bipedal walking, 3) standing, 4) quadrupedal walking, and 5) no exercise control. These experimental conditions test whether mechanical loading from 1) locomotor or postural behaviors, and 2) a change in the magnitude of load can moderate longitudinal bone growth in the femur and tibia, relative to controls. The results demonstrate that fully loaded bipedal walking and bipedal standing groups showed significant differences in the percentage change in length for the tibia and femur. When comparing the change from baseline, which control for body mass, all bipedal groups showed significant differences in tibia length compared to control groups. However, there were no absolute differences in bone length, which suggests that mechanical loads from bipedal behaviors may instead be moderating changes in growth velocity. Implications for the relationship between bipedal behaviors and longitudinal bone growth are discussed.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: PloS one
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