Myostatin (GDF-8) is known as a potent inhibitor of muscle growth and development, and myostatin is also expressed early in the fracture healing process. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that a new myostatin inhibitor, a recombinant myostatin propeptide, can enhance the repair and regeneration of both muscle and bone in cases of deep penetrant injury.
We used a fibula osteotomy model with associated damage to lateral compartment muscles (fibularis longus and brevis) in mice to test the hypothesis that blocking active myostatin with systemic injections of a recombinant myostatin propeptide would improve muscle and bone repair. Mice were assigned to two treatment groups after undergoing a fibula osteotomy: those receiving either vehicle (saline) or recombinant myostatin propeptide (20 mg/kg). Mice received one injection on the day of surgery, another injection 5 days after surgery, and a third injection 10 days after surgery. Mice were killed 15 days after the osteotomy procedure. Bone repair was assessed using microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) and histologic evaluation of the fracture callus. Muscle healing was assessed using Masson trichrome staining of the injury site, and image analysis was used to quantify the degree of fibrosis and muscle regeneration.
Three propeptide injections over a period of 15 days increased body mass by 7% and increased muscle mass by almost 20% (p < 0.001). Micro-CT analysis of the osteotomy site shows that by 15 days post osteotomy, bony callus tissue was observed bridging the osteotomy gap in 80% of the propeptide-treated mice but only 40% of the control (vehicle)-treated mice (p < 0.01). Micro-CT quantification shows that bone volume of the fracture callus was increased by ∼ 30% (p < 0.05) with propeptide treatment and the increase in bone volume was accompanied by a significant increase in cartilage area (p = 0.01). Propeptide treatment significantly decreased the fraction of fibrous tissue in the wound site and increased the fraction of muscle relative to fibrous tissue by 20% (p < 0.01).
Blocking myostatin signalling the injured limb improves fracture healing and enhances muscle regeneration. These data suggest that myostatin inhibitors may be effective for improving wound repair in cases of orthopaedic trauma and extremity injury.