Purpose: This study tested the hypothesis that a significant amount of the new bone produced by heterotopic periosteal autografts is derived osteoinductively because proliferating periosteal cells express the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). Materials and Methods: Rabbit ulnar and radial periosteum were autografted as free grafts (FGs) to the forelimb musculature, and as millipore diffusion chambers grafts (MDCGs) to the rectus abdominus muscle. The grafts were recovered at 3, 5, 7, 14, and 28 days postoperation, fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde, demineralized in 0.6N HCL, and 4.0 μm paraffin-embedded sections were immunostained with monoclonal antibody against recombinant human (rh) BMP-2. Results: Sections from FGs recovered 5 to 28 days postoperatively exhibited cartilage and bone; fibrous tissue, cartilage, bone, and osteochondroid differentiated within MDCGs. Although BMP-2 was expressed by mesenchymal cells, osteoblasts, osteocytes, and osteoclasts, none of the MDCGs produced the osteoinductive signature of transmembrane bone formation. Conclusions: These observations indicated that the larger fraction of the new bone produced by heterotopic periosteal autografts is derived from the graft cells.
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