Alpha-tocopherol, a well-known antioxidative agent, may have a positive effect on bone formation during the remodeling phase of secondary fracture healing. Fracture healing and osseointegration of implants share common biological pathways; hence, alpha-tocopherol may enhance implant osseointegration.
This experimental study in rats assessed the ability of alpha-tocopherol to enhance osseointegration of orthopaedic implants as determined by (1) pull-out strength and removal torque and (2) a histomorphological assessment of bone formation. In addition, we asked, (3) is there a correlation between the administration of alpha-tocopherol and a reduction in postoperative oxidative stress (as determined by malondialdehyde, protein carbonyls, reduced and oxidized glutathione and their ratio, catalase activity and total antioxidant capacity) that develops after implantation of an orthopaedic implant?
This blinded study was performed in study and control groups, each consisting of 15 young adult male Wistar rats. On Day 0, a custom-designed stainless-steel screw was implanted in the proximal metaphysis of both tibias of all rats. On Day 1, animals were randomized to receive either alpha-tocopherol (40 mg/kg once per day intraperitoneally) or saline (controls). Animals were treated according to identical perioperative and postoperative protocols and were euthanized on Day 29. All animals completed the study and all tibias were suitable for evaluation. Implant pullout strength was assessed in the right tibias, and removal torque and histomorphometric evaluations (that is, volume of newly formed bone surrounding the implant in mm, percentage of newly formed bone, percentage of bone marrow surrounding the implant per optical field, thickness of newly formed bone in μm, percentage of mineralized bone in newly formed bone, volume of mature newly formed bone surrounding the implant in mm and percentage of mineralized newly formed bone per tissue area) were performed in the left tibias. The plasma levels of alpha-tocopherol, malondialdehyde, protein carbonyls, glutathione, glutathione disulfide, catalase, and the total antioxidant capacity were evaluated, and the ratio of glutathione to oxidized glutathione was calculated.
All parameters were different between the alpha-tocopherol-treated and control rats, favoring those in the alpha-tocopherol group. The pullout strength for the alpha-tocopherol group (mean ± SD) was 124.9 ± 20.7 newtons (N) versus 88.1 ± 12.7 N in the control group (mean difference -36.7 [95% CI -49.6 to -23.9]; p < 0.001). The torque median value was 7 (range 5.4 to 8.3) versus 5.2 (range 3.6 to 6 ) N/cm (p < 0.001). The newly formed bone volume was 29.8 ± 5.7 X 10 versus 25.2 ± 7.8 X 10 mm (mean difference -4.6 [95% CI -8.3 to -0.8]; p = 0.018), the percentage of mineralized bone in newly formed bone was 74.6% ± 8.7% versus 62.1% ± 9.8% (mean difference -12.5 [95% CI -20.2 to -4.8]; p = 0.003), the percentage of mineralized newly formed bone per tissue area was 40.3 ± 8.6% versus 34.8 ± 9% (mean difference -5.5 [95% CI -10.4 to -0.6]; p = 0.028), the glutathione level was 2 ± 0.4 versus 1.3 ± 0.3 μmol/g of hemoglobin (mean difference -0.6 [95% CI -0.9 to -0.4]; p < 0.001), the median glutathione/oxidized glutathione ratio was 438.8 (range 298 to 553) versus 340.1 (range 212 to 454; p = 0.002), the catalase activity was 155.6 ± 44.6 versus 87.3 ± 25.2 U/mg Hb (mean difference -68.3 [95% CI -95.4 to -41.2]; p < 0.001), the malondialdehyde level was 0.07 ± 0.02 versus 0.14 ± 0.03 μmol/g protein (mean difference 0.07 [95% CI 0.05 to 0.09]; p < 0.001), the protein carbonyl level was 0.16 ± 0.04 versus 0.27 ± 0.08 nmol/mg of protein (mean difference -0.1 [95% CI 0.05 to 0.15]; p = 0.002), the alpha-tocopherol level was 3.9 ± 4.1 versus 0.9 ± 0.2 mg/dL (mean difference -3 [95% CI -5.2 to -0.7]; p = 0.011), and the total antioxidant capacity was 15.9 ± 3.2 versus 13.7 ± 1.7 nmol 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical/g of protein (mean difference -2.1 [95% CI -4.1 to -0.18]; p = 0.008).
These results using an in vivo rat model support that postoperatively administered alpha-tocopherol can enhance the osseointegration of an orthopaedic implant, although a cause and effect relationship between the administration of alpha-tocopherol and a reduction in postoperative stress cannot be securely established.
These findings suggest that postoperative administration of alpha-tocopherol is a promising approach to enhance osseointegration of orthopaedic implants in patients. Further studies with different animal models and/or different implants and those evaluating the alpha-tocopherol dose response are needed before performing clinical trials that will examine whether these promising, preliminary results can be extrapolated to the clinical setting as well.