Local stimulation of osteocytes using a magnetically actuated oscillating beam
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Mechanical loading on bone tissue is an important physiological stimulus that plays a key role in bone growth, fracture repair, and treatment of bone diseases. Osteocytes (bone cells embedded in bone matrix) are well accepted as the sensor cells to mechanical loading and play a critical role in regulating the bone structure in response to mechanical loading. To understand the response of osteocytes to differential mechanical stimulation in physiologically relevant arrangements, there is a need for a platform which can locally stimulate bone cells with different levels of fluid shear stress. In this study, we developed a device aiming to achieve non-contact local mechanical stimulation of osteocytes with a magnetically actuated beam that generates the fluid shear stresses encountered in vivo. The stimulating beam was made from a composite of magnetic powder and polymer, where a magnetic field was used to precisely oscillate the beam in the horizontal plane. The beam is placed above a cell-seeded surface with an estimated gap height of 5 μm. Finite element simulations were performed to quantify the shear stress values and to generate a shear stress map in the region of interest. Osteocytes were seeded on the device and were stimulated while their intracellular calcium responses were quantified and correlated with their position and local shear stress value. We observed that cells closer to the oscillating beam respond earlier compared to cells further away from the local shear stress gradient generated by the oscillating beam. We have demonstrated the capability of our device to mimic the propagation of calcium signalling to osteocytes outside of the stimulatory region. This device will allow for future studies of osteocyte network signalling with a physiologically accurate localized shear stress gradient.
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