Morphology of osteocyte cells in normal and hyper-gravity

Yuan, Huan (2013) Morphology of osteocyte cells in normal and hyper-gravity. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Osteocyte cells are the most abundant cells in human bone tissue. Due to their unique morphology and location, osteocyte cells are thought to act as regulators in the bone remodelling process, and are believed to play an important role in astronauts’ bone mass loss after long-term space missions. There is increasing evidence showing that an osteocyte’s functions are highly affected by its morphology. However, changes in an osteocyte’s morphology under an altered gravity environment are still not well documented.

Several in vitro studies have been recently conducted to investigate the morphological response of osteocyte cells to the microgravity environment, where osteocyte cells were cultured on a two-dimensional flat surface for at least 24 hours before microgravity experiments. Morphology changes of osteocyte cells in microgravity were then studied by comparing the cell area to 1g control cells. However, osteocyte cells found in vivo are with a more 3D morphology, and both cell body and dendritic processes are found sensitive to mechanical loadings. A round shape osteocyte’s cells support a less stiff cytoskeleton and are more sensitive to mechanical stimulations compared with flat cellular morphology. Thus, the relative flat and spread shape of isolated osteocytes in 2D culture may greatly hamper their sensitivity to a mechanical stimulus, and the lack of knowledge on the osteocyte’s morphological characteristics in culture may lead to subjective and noncomprehensive conclusions of how altered gravity impacts on an osteocyte’s morphology.

Through this work empirical models were developed to quantitatively predicate the changes of morphology in osteocyte cell lines (MLO-Y4) in culture, and the response of osteocyte cells, which are relatively round in shape, to hyper-gravity stimulation has also been investigated.

The morphology changes of MLO-Y4 cells in culture were quantified by measuring cell area and three dimensionless shape features including aspect ratio, circularity and solidity by using widely accepted image analysis software (ImageJTM). MLO-Y4 cells were cultured at low density (5×103 per well) and the changes in morphology were recorded over 10 hours. Based on the data obtained from the imaging analysis, empirical models were developed using the non-linear regression method. The developed empirical models accurately predict the morphology of MLO-Y4 cells for different culture times and can, therefore, be used as a reference model for analysing MLO-Y4 cell morphology changes within various biological/mechanical studies, as necessary.

The morphological response of MLO-Y4 cells with a relatively round morphology to hyper-gravity environment has been investigated using a centrifuge. After 2 hours culture, MLO-Y4 cells were exposed to 20g for 30mins. Changes in the morphology of MLO-Y4 cells are quantitatively analysed by measuring the average value of cell area and dimensionless shape factors such as aspect ratio, solidity and circularity. In this study, no significant morphology changes were detected in MLO-Y4 cells under a hyper-gravity environment (20g for 30 mins) compared with 1g control cells.

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ID Code: 62160
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Steinberg, Theodore
Keywords: cellular morphology, empirical model, hyper-gravity, image-analysis, osteocyte cell line (MLO-Y4), quantitative study
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2013 02:16
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015 23:46

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