Effects of nicotine on bone mass and strength in aged female rats

M. P. Akhter, U. T. Iwaniec, G. R. Haynatzki, Y. K. Fung, D. M. Cullen, R. R. Recker

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39 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effects of nicotine on bone mass and biomechanical properties in aged, estrogen-replete (sham-operated) and estrogen-deplete (ovariectomized) female rats. Eight month old, retired breeder, sham-operated and ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats were left untreated for 12 weeks to establish cancellous osteopenia in the ovariectomized group. The animals were then administered saline, low dose nicotine (6.0 mg/kg/day) or high dose nicotine (9.0 mg/kg/day) via osmotic minipumps for 12 weeks. Vertebrae and femora were collected at necropsy for determination of bone mass and strength. As expected, ovariectomy had a negative effect on most endpoints evaluated. Vertebral body bone mineral content (BMC) and density (BMD) and the structural (ultimate load and yield load) and material (ultimate stress, yield stress, and flexural modulus of elasticity) strength properties were lower in the OVX rats than in the sham-operated rats. Femoral diaphysis BMC, BMD, ultimate load, and flexural modulus were also lower in the OVX rats than in the sham-operated rats. The nicotine doses administered resulted in serum nicotine levels that averaged 1.5-4.5-fold greater than those observed in heavy smokers. Despite the high doses used, nicotine had no effect on vertebral BMC, BMD, or any of the structural and material strength properties in either the OVX or the Sham rats. In addition, nicotine had no effect on femoral diaphysis BMC, BMD, ultimate load, stiffness, ultimate stress, or flexural modulus. Femoral yield load and stress were lower in low dose nicotine-treated rats than in vehicle-treated rats. However, differences were not detected between the high dose nicotine- and vehicle-treated rats for either femoral yield load or stress. The results suggest that tobacco agents other than nicotine are responsible for the decreased bone density and increased fracture risk as observed in smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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