Hedenqvist, P., Trbakovic, A., Mellgren, T. et al. 2020. The effect of housing environment on bone healing in a critical radius defect in New Zealand White rabbits. PLoS ONE 15(5): e0233530.
In animal studies on bone healing, the effect of housing space and physical activity are seldom taken into account. Bone formation was evaluated in New Zealand White rabbits (mean ± SEM BW: 3.9 ± 0.11 kg) with a critical bone defect after 12 weeks of rehabilitation in pair-housing in 3 m2 large floor pens (Floor, n = 10) or standard single housing in 0.43 m2 cages (Cage, n = 10). In the randomised full-factorial study, a bone replica of calcium phosphate cement (CPC, n = 10) or autologous bone (AB, n = 10) was implanted in the unilateral 20 mm radius defect. Post-mortem, the oxidative capacity was measured by citrate synthase (CS) activity in M. quadriceps and the defect filling volume and density evaluated by microcomputer tomography (μ-CT). Histology sections were evaluated by subjective scoring and histomorphometry. Fourteen rabbits remained until the end of the study. Group Floor (n = 7; 3 CPC + 4 AB) had a higher CS activity and a larger bone defect filling volume and lower density by μ-CT measurements than group Cage (n = 7; 3 CPC + 4 AB). Three out of four rabbits in AB-Floor presented fusion of the defect with reorganisation of trabecular bone, whereas three of four in AB-Cage showed areas of incomplete healing. Floor rabbits had a higher score of bony fusion between the radius and ulna than Cage rabbits. There were no differences between groups in histomorphometry. The study found that a larger housing space increased physical activity and promoted bone formation.