Mechanical strain affects dura mater biological processes: Implications for immature calvarial healing

Kenton D. Fong, Stephen M. Warren, Elizabeth G. Loboa, James H. Henderson, Tony D. Fang, Catherine M. Cowan, Dennis R. Carter, Michael T. Longaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The human brain grows rapidly during the first 2 years of life. This growth generates tensile strain in the overlying dura mater and neurocranium. Interestingly, it is largely during this 2-year growth period that infants are able to reossify calvarial defects. This clinical observation is important because it suggests that calvarial healing is most robust during the period of active intracranial volume expansion. With a rat model, it was previously demonstrated that immature dura mater proliferates more rapidly and produces more osteogenic cytokines and marker of osteoblast differentiation than does mature dura mater. It was therefore hypothesized that mechanical strain generated by the growing brain induces immature dura mater proliferation and increases osteogenic cytokine expression necessary for growth and healing of the overlying calvaria. Human and rat (n = 40) intracranial volume expansion was calculated as a function of age. These calculations demonstrated that 83 percent of human intracranial volume expansion is complete by 2 years of age and 90 percent of Sprague-Dawley rat intracranial volume expansion is achieved by 2 months of age. Next, the maximal daily circumferential tensile strains that could be generated in immature rat dura mater were calculated, and the corresponding daily biaxial tensile strains in the dura mater during this 2-month period were determined. With the use of a three-parameter monomolecular growth curve, it was calculated that rat dura mater experiences daily equibiaxial strains of at most 9.7 percent and 0.1 percent at birth (day 0) and 60 days of age, respectively. Because it was noted that immature durai cells may experience tensile strains as high as approximately 10 percent, neonatal rat dural cells were subjected to 10 percent equibiaxial strain in vitro, and dural cell proliferation and gene expression profiles were analyzed. When exposed to mechanical strain, immature dural cells rapidly proliferated (5.8-fold increase in proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression at 24 hours). Moreover, mechanical strain induced marked up-regulation of dural cell osteogenic cytokine production; transforming growth factor-β1 messenger RNA levels increased 3.4-fold at 3 hours and fibroblast growth factor-2 protein levels increased 4.5-fold at 24 hours and 5.6-fold at 48 hours. Finally, mechanical strain increased dural cell expression of markers of osteoblast differentiation (2.8-fold increase in osteopontin levels at 3 hours). These findings suggest that mechanical strain can induce changes in dura mater biological processes and gene expression that may play important roles in coordinating the growth and healing of the neonatal calvaria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1312-1327
Number of pages16
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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