Irradiation induces bone injury by damaging bone marrow microenvironment for stem cells

Xu Cao, Xiangwei Wu, Deborah Frassica, Bing Yu, Lijuan Pang, Lingling Xian, Mei Wan, Weiqi Lei, Michael Armour, Erik Tryggestad, John Wong, Chunyi Wen, William Weijia Lu, Frank J. Frassica

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)


Radiation therapy can result in bone injury with the development of fractures and often can lead to delayed and nonunion of bone. There is no prevention or treatment for irradiation-induced bone injury. We irradiated the distal half of the mouse left femur to study the mechanism of irradiation-induced bone injury and found that no mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were detected in irradiated distal femora or nonirradiated proximal femora. The MSCs in the circulation doubled at 1 week and increased fourfold after 4 wk of irradiation. The number of MSCs in the proximal femur quickly recovered, but no recovery was observed in the distal femur. The levels of free radicals were increased threefold at 1 wk and remained at this high level for 4 wk in distal femora, whereas the levels were increased at 1 wk and returned to the basal level at 4 wk in nonirradiated proximal femur. Free radicals diffuse ipsilaterally to the proximal femur through bone medullary canal. The blood vessels in the distal femora were destroyed in angiographic images, but not in the proximal femora. The osteoclasts and osteoblasts were decreased in the distal femora after irradiation, but no changes were observed in the proximal femora. The total bone volumes were not affected in proximal and distal femora. Our data indicate that irradiation produces free radicals that adversely affect the survival of MSCs in both distal and proximal femora. Irradiation injury to the vasculatures and the microenvironment affect the niches for stem cells during the recovery period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1609-1614
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiography
  • CFU-fibroblast
  • Differentiation
  • Repopulation
  • Self-renewal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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