Samsell B, Softic D, Qin X, McLean J, Sohoni P, Gonzales K, Moore MA. Preservation of allograft bone using a glycerol solution: a compilation of original preclinical research. Biomater Res. 2019 Feb;23(5). doi: 10.1186/s40824-019-0154-1

BACKGROUND: Bone allografts are used in many orthopedic procedures to provide structural stability as well as an osteoconductive matrix for bone ingrowth and fusion. Traditionally, bone allografts have been preserved by either freezing or freeze-drying. Each of these preservation methods has some disadvantages: Frozen grafts require special shipping and storage conditions, and freeze-drying requires special lyophilization equipment and procedures that may impact biomechanical integrity. This report describes an alternate type of preservation using glycerol, which allows storage of fully-hydrated tissues at ambient temperature avoiding the potential complications from freeze-drying.

METHODS: In the in vitro three-point bend test, cortical bone was processed and frozen, freeze-dried, or treated with glycerol-based preservation (GBP). Load was applied to each graft at a rate of 2.71 mm/min. The flexural strain, flexural strength, and flexural modulus were then calculated. In the in vitro axial compression test, iliac crest wedges, fibular segments, and Cloward dowels were processed and either freeze-dried or GBP treated. The compressive strength of the grafts were tested at time zero and after real time aging of 1, 4, and 5 years. In the in vivo rat calvarial defect assessment, freeze-dried, frozen, and GBP bone implants were compared after being implanted into a critical sized defect. Samples underwent histological and biomechanical evaluation.

RESULTS:  Bone grafts subjected to GBP were found to be at least biomechanically equivalent to frozen bone while also being significantly less brittle than freeze-dried bone. GBP-preserved bone demonstrated significantly greater compressive strength than freeze-dried at multiple time points. Preclinical research performed in calvaric defect models found that GBP-preserved bone had similar osteoconductivity and biocompatibility to frozen and freeze-dried samples.

CONCLUSION:  Preclinical research demonstrated that glycerol–preservation of bone yields a material that maintains biomechanical strength while eliminating the need for extensive rehydration or thaw periods if used clinically. Additionally, in vivo evidence suggests no negative impact of glycerol-preservation on the ability of bone grafts to successfully participate in new bone formation and fusion.

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