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INTRODUCTION - Soft tissue calcification, including both dystrophic calcification and heterotopic ossification, may occur following injury. These lesions have variable fates as they are either resorbed or persist. Persistent soft tissue calcification may result in chronic inflammation and/or loss of function of that soft tissue. The molecular mechanisms that result in the development and maturation of calcifications are uncertain. As a result, directed therapies that prevent or resorb soft tissue calcifications remain largely unsuccessful. Animal models of post-traumatic soft tissue calcification that allow for cost-effective, serial analysis of an individual animal over time are necessary to derive and test novel therapies. We have determined that a cardiotoxin-induced injury of the muscles in the posterior compartment of the lower extremity represents a useful model in which soft tissue calcification develops remote from adjacent bones, thereby allowing for serial analysis by plain radiography. The purpose of the study was to design and validate a method for quantifying soft tissue calcifications in mice longitudinally using plain radiographic techniques and an ordinal scoring system.
METHODS - Muscle injury was induced by injecting cardiotoxin into the posterior compartment of the lower extremity in mice susceptible to developing soft tissue calcification. Seven days following injury, radiographs were obtained under anesthesia. Multiple researchers applied methods designed to standardize post-image processing of digital radiographs (N = 4) and quantify soft tissue calcification (N = 6) in these images using an ordinal scoring system. Inter- and intra-observer agreement for both post-image processing and the scoring system used was assessed using weighted kappa statistics. Soft tissue calcification quantifications by the ordinal scale were compared to mineral volume measurements (threshold 450.7mgHA/cm3) determined by μCT. Finally, sample-size calculations necessary to discriminate between a 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% difference in STiCSS score 7 days following burn/CTX induced muscle injury were determined.
RESULTS - Precision analysis demonstrated substantial to good agreement for both post-image processing (κ = 0.73 to 0.90) and scoring (κ = 0.88 to 0.93), with low inter- and intra-observer variability. Additionally, there was a strong correlation in quantification of soft tissue calcification between the ordinal system and by mineral volume quantification by μCT (Spearman r = 0.83 to 0.89). The ordinal scoring system reliably quantified soft tissue calcification in a burn/CTX-induced soft tissue calcification model compared to non-injured controls (Mann-Whitney rank test: P = 0.0002, ***). Sample size calculations revealed that 6 mice per group would be required to detect a 50% difference in STiCSS score with a power of 0.8. Finally, the STiCSS was demonstrated to reliably quantify soft tissue calcification [dystrophic calcification and heterotopic ossification] by radiographic analysis, independent of the histopathological state of the mineralization.
CONCLUSIONS - Radiographic analysis can discriminate muscle injury-induced soft tissue calcification from adjacent bone and follow its clinical course over time without requiring the sacrifice of the animal. While the STiCSS cannot identify the specific type of soft tissue calcification present, it is still a useful and valid method by which to quantify the degree of soft tissue calcification. This methodology allows for longitudinal measurements of soft tissue calcification in a single animal, which is relatively less expensive, less time-consuming, and exposes the animal to less radiation than in vivo μCT. Therefore, this high-throughput, longitudinal analytic method for quantifying soft tissue calcification is a viable alternative for the study of soft tissue calcification.
BACKGROUND - Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare genetic disorder of progressive extraskeletal ossification, is the most disabling form of heterotopic ossification in humans. However, little is known about the lifespan or causes of mortality in these patients. We undertook this study to determine the lifespan and causes of mortality in individuals who had fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.
METHODS - We reviewed comprehensive mortality reports from two large registries of patients with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. Together, these registries comprise >90% of all known patients with this condition in the world. We noted the sex, dates of birth and death, and the cause of death for each individual. We verified the cause of death with extensive medical records, when available. We also collected date of birth, current age, and sex information for each living patient member of the International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association.
RESULTS - Sixty deaths (thirty male and thirty female patients) were reported in the fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva community during a thirty-three-year-period. For all sixty patients, the median age at the time of death was forty years (range, three to seventy-seven years). Data were sufficient to establish the cause of death in forty-eight (80%) of the sixty individuals. The median age at the time of death for the forty-eight patients (twenty-four male and twenty-four female patients) with an established cause of death was also forty years. The median lifespan estimated from the 371 individuals in the international fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva community who were alive and the sixty who had died was fifty-six years (95% confidence interval, fifty-one to sixty years). The most common causes of death in patients with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva were cardiorespiratory failure from thoracic insufficiency syndrome (54%; median age, forty-two years) and pneumonia (15%; median age, forty years).
CONCLUSIONS - Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva is not only an extremely disabling disease but also a condition of considerably shortened lifespan. The most common cause of death in patients with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva is cardiorespiratory failure from thoracic insufficiency syndrome.
Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a congenital disorder of progressive and widespread postnatal ossification of soft tissues and is without known effective treatments. Affected individuals harbor conserved mutations in the ACVR1 gene that are thought to cause constitutive activation of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor, activin receptor-like kinase-2 (ALK2). Here we show that intramuscular expression in the mouse of an inducible transgene encoding constitutively active ALK2 (caALK2), resulting from a glutamine to aspartic acid change at amino acid position 207, leads to ectopic endochondral bone formation, joint fusion and functional impairment, thus phenocopying key aspects of human FOP. A selective inhibitor of BMP type I receptor kinases, LDN-193189 (ref. 6), inhibits activation of the BMP signaling effectors SMAD1, SMAD5 and SMAD8 in tissues expressing caALK2 induced by adenovirus specifying Cre (Ad.Cre). This treatment resulted in a reduction in ectopic ossification and functional impairment. In contrast to localized induction of caALK2 by Ad.Cre (which entails inflammation), global postnatal expression of caALK2 (induced without the use of Ad.Cre and thus without inflammation) does not lead to ectopic ossification. However, if in this context an inflammatory stimulus was provided with a control adenovirus, ectopic bone formation was induced. Like LDN-193189, corticosteroid inhibits ossification in Ad.Cre-injected mutant mice, suggesting caALK2 expression and an inflammatory milieu are both required for the development of ectopic ossification in this model. These results support the role of dysregulated ALK2 kinase activity in the pathogenesis of FOP and suggest that small molecule inhibition of BMP type I receptor activity may be useful in treating FOP and heterotopic ossification syndromes associated with excessive BMP signaling.
Retinoids are a plausible family of therapeutic agents for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva due to their ability to inhibit differentiation of mesenchymal tissue into cartilage and bone. A prospective study was conducted to assess the efficacy of isotretinoin (13-cis-retinoic acid) in the prevention of heterotopic ossification in patients who had fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. Eleven anatomic regions were assessed in each of 21 patients by clinical examination, radiographs, and bone scans. An anatomic region was considered to be involved if there was clinical, radiographic, or radionuclide evidence of orthotopic or heterotopic ossification anywhere in the region. There were 143 involved anatomic regions and 88 uninvolved anatomic regions at the beginning of the study. Only one of the 88 anatomic regions that was completely uninvolved at the beginning of the study became involved during isotretinoin therapy. However, 16 of the 21 patients (76%) had major flare ups develop in 38 of 143 (27%) previously involved anatomic regions while administered isotretinoin therapy. Isotretinoin at steady state doses of 1 to 2 mg/kg per day decreased the incidence of heterotopic ossification at uninvolved anatomic regions compared with an external control group, as long as the medication was started before the appearance of any orthotopic or heterotopic ossification in that anatomic region. The data did not allow the determination of whether isotretinoin was effective or detrimental in preventing disease flareups in regions that had even minimal orthotopic or heterotopic ossification at the time the therapy began. Extreme caution should be exercised when using this medication in patients who have fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva.
Two patients with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva who presented with jaw immobilization due to formation of bone between the maxilla and mandible were treated with surgical resection of their ectopic bone in conjunction with experimental, adjunctive medical therapy using isotretinoin. Both patients had recurrence of their ectopic ossification within 2 months of surgery. Surgery to remove joint-bridging ossifications in FOP is not recommended.