Bioactive glass is a promising osteoconductive silica-based biomaterial for guidance of new bone growth. On the basis of several in vitro studies, the material appears able to promote osteoblast functions. In our in vivo study, the osteopromotive effect of bioactive glass microspheres seemed to surpass the osteoinductive action of direct adenovirus-mediated human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2) gene transfer in a noncritical size bone defect model. The current study was initiated to elucidate the molecular mechanism behind bioactive glass action with or without adjunct BMP-2 gene transfer. A standardized bone defect of the rat tibia was filled with bioactive glass microspheres and injected with adenovirus carrying the human BMP-2 gene (RAdBMP-2). Control defects were left empty or filled with bioactive glass microspheres with injection of adenovirus carrying the lacZ reporter gene or saline. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction confirmed the expression of the transferred human BMP-2 gene at the defect area at 4 days, but not in intact reference tissues. Bone matrix components (collagens I, II, and III, osteocalcin, osteonectin, and osteopontin) and resorption markers (cathepsin K and MMP-9), determined by Northern analysis, showed a completely different pattern of gene expression in defects filled with bioactive glass compared with control defects left to heal without filling. Bioactive glass induced a long-lasting production of bone matrix with concurrent upregulation of osteoclastic markers, a sign of high bone turnover. Combining RAdBMP-2 gene transfer with bioactive glass decelerated the high turnover, but did not influence the balance of synthesis and resorption. This molecular analysis confirmed not only the highly osteopromotive effect of bioactive glass microspheres, but also the accelerated rate of new bone resorption on its surface. At least in noncritical size defects this impact of bioactive glass seems to saturate new bone formation on its surface and thereby overshadow the effect of BMP-2 gene transfer.

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