Is heterotopic ossification getting nervous? The role of the peripheral nervous system in heterotopic ossification

Eleanor L. Davis, Alan R. Davis, Zbigniew Gugala, Elizabeth A. Olmsted-Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Heterotopic ossification (HO), or de novo bone formation in soft tissue, is often observed following traumatic injury. Recent studies suggest that peripheral nerves may play a key functional role in this process. The results supporting a neurological basis for HO are examined in this article. Evidence supports the fact that BMPs released from bone matrix possess the capacity to induce HO. However, the process cannot be recapitulated using recombinant proteins without extremely high doses suggesting other components are required for this process. Study of injuries that increase risk for HO, i.e. amputation, hip replacement, elbow fracture, burn, and CNS injury suggests that a likely candidate is traumatic injury of adjacent peripheral nerves. Recent studies suggest neuroinflammation may play a key functional role, by its ability to open the blood-nerve barrier (BNB). Barrier opening is characterized by a change in permeability and is experimentally assessed by the ability of Evans blue dye to enter the endoneurium of peripheral nerves. A combination of BMP and barrier opening is required to activate bone progenitors in the endoneurial compartment. This process is referred to as “neurogenic HO”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Bone morphogenetic protein 2
  • Heterotopic ossification
  • Nerve injury
  • Neural osteoprogenitors
  • Neurogenic HO
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Traumatic injury-induced bone formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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