To compare the effect of intermittent parathyroid hormone (PTH) treatment with that of estrogen treatment on epiphyseal growth in ovariectomized rats, 46 Sprague-Dawley female rats aged 9 - 10 weeks (about 200 - 220 g) were either ovariectomized or sham operated. From 6 weeks after ovariectomy (ovx), rats were daily injected with subcutaneous human recombinant PTH (1 - 84)-dosed 30 μg/kg (the low dose PTH- treated group) or 300 μg/kg (the high dose PTH-treated group), 17 β-estradiol (the 17 β- estradiol-treated group, 30 μg/kg) or vehicle (the ovx-alone group), 5 times a week for 4 weeks. The decalcified sections of the distal femoral epiphyseal plate were analyzed on light microscopy after H and E strain, and the lengths of the zones of proliferation, maturing and hypertrophic chondrocytes were measured. The length of the growth plate, the zone of proliferation and the zone of hypertrophic chondrocyte in the ovx-alone group were significantly shorter than those of the sham-operated group. The treatment of 17 β- estradiol speeded up to the differentiation of cells from proliferating chondrocytes to maturing and hypertrophic chondrocytes even though the length of the growth plate was comparable to that of the sham-operated group. Both low and high dose PTH treatments increased the length of the growth plate, and those lengths were comparable to that of the sham-operated group. The fractions of proliferating, maturing and hypertrophic zone in the low dose PTH-treated group were also comparable to those of the sham-operated group. However, high dose PTH treatment slowed down the differentiation of cells from proliferating chondrocytes to maturing and hypertrophic chondrocytes to a greater extent, and therefore the fraction of proliferating chondrocytes of the high dose PTH-treated group was larger than that of the low dose PTH- treated group (73.8±1.8 Vs 63.3±1.3%, p<0.005). From these results, we showed that intermittent PTH treatment could promote linear growth in the ovariectomized growing rat. We propose that PTH may be an alternative drug candidate for promoting linear growth of long bones without the risk for early closure of the growth plate.
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