Background While the importance of physical factors in the maintenance and regeneration of bone tissue has been recognized for many years and the mechano-sensitivity of bone cells is well established, there is increasing evidence that body fat constitutes an independent risk factor for complications in bone fracture healing and aseptic loosening of implants. Although mechanical causes have been widely suggested, we hypothesized that the osteogenic mechano-response of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) may be altered in obese patients.
Methods We determined the phenotypic and genotypic response of undifferentiated hMSCs of 10 donors to cyclic tensile strain (CTS) under controlled in vitro conditions and analyzed the potential relationship relevant to the donor's anthropomorphometric and biochemical parameters related to donor's fat and bone metabolism.
Results and interpretation The osteogenic marker genes were all statistically significantly upregulated by CTS, which was accompanied by a significant increase in cell-based ALP activity. Linear correlation analysis revealed that there was a significant correlation between phenotypic CTS response and the body mass index of the donor (r = –0.91, p < 0.001) and phenotypic CTS response was also significantly related to leptin levels (r = –0.68) and estradiol levels (r = 0.67) within the bone marrow microenvironment of the donor. Such an upstream imprinting process mediated by factors tightly related to the donor's fat metabolism, which hampers the mechanosensitivity of hMSCs in obese patients, may be of pathogenetic relevance for the complications associated with obesity that are seen in orthopedic surgery.