Iliac Crest and Distal Radius Autografts Exhibit Distinct Cell-Intrinsic Functional Differences

Published:August 03, 2022DOI:


      Autologous bone grafts demonstrate osteoconductive, osteoinductive, and osteogenic properties. Hand surgeons commonly augment surgical fixation with autografts to promote fracture healing. This study compared the intrinsic stem cell-like properties of 2 commonly used autograft sources in hand surgery: the iliac crest and distal radius.


      A total of 9 subjects who received an iliac crest bone graft and distal radius bone graft harvest as a part of the standard care of distal radius malunion or nonunion correction or scaphoid nonunion open reduction and internal fixation were enrolled in the study. Cells were isolated by serial collagenase digestion and subjected to fibroblast colony-forming units, osteogenesis, and adipogenesis assays. The expression levels of genes involved in osteogenesis and adipogenesis were confirmed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction.


      The cells isolated from the iliac crest bone graft compared with those isolated from the distal radius bone graft demonstrated significantly higher mean fibroblast colony-forming unit efficiency; increased osteogenesis, as measured using alizarin red quantification; increased adipogenesis, as measured using oil red O quantification; and higher expression levels of genes involved in osteogenesis and adipogenesis under the respective differentiation conditions.


      The cells isolated from the iliac crest bone graft demonstrated a higher fibroblast colony-forming unit capacity and an increased capability to undergo both osteogenesis and adipogenesis.

      Clinical relevance

      Limited evidence exists comparing the intrinsic stem cell-like properties of the iliac crest and distal radius despite the widespread use of each source in hand and wrist surgery. The information from this investigation may assist hand and wrist surgeons with the selection of a source of autograft.

      Key words

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