Combined parathyroid hormone (PTH) and bisphosphonate (alendronate—ALN) therapy has recently been shown to increase bone volume fraction and plate-like trabecular structure beyond either monotherapy. To identify the mechanism through which plate-like structure was enhanced, we used in vivo microcomputed tomography (μCT) of the proximal tibia metaphysis and individual trabecular dynamics (ITD) analysis to quantify connectivity repair (incidences of rod connection and plate perforation filling) and deterioration (incidences of rod disconnection and plate perforation). Three-month-old female, intact rats were scanned before and after a 12 day treatment period of vehicle (Veh, n = 5), ALN (n = 6), PTH (n = 6), and combined (PTH+ALN, n = 6) therapy. Additionally, we used computational simulation and finite element (FE) analysis to delineate the contributions of connectivity repair or trabecular thickening to trabecular bone stiffness. Our results showed that the combined therapy group had greater connectivity repair (5.8 ± 0.5% connected rods and 2.0 ± 0.3% filled plates) beyond that of the Veh group, resulting in the greatest net gain in connectivity. For all treatment groups, increases in bone volume due to thickening (5–31%) were far greater than those due to connectivity repair (2–3%). Newly formed bone contributing only to trabecular thickening caused a 10%, 41%, and 69% increase in stiffness in the ALN, PTH, and PTH+ALN groups, respectively. Moreover, newly formed bone that led to connectivity repair resulted in an additional improvement in stiffness, with the highest in PTH+ALN (by an additional 12%), which was significantly greater than either PTH (5.6%) or ALN (4.5%). An efficiency ratio was calculated as the mean percent increase in stiffness divided by mean percent increase in BV for either thickening or connectivity repair in each treatment. For all treatments, the efficiency ratio of connectivity repair (ALN: 2.9; PTH: 3.4; PTH+ALN: 4.4) was higher than that due to thickening (ALN: 2.0; PTH: 1.7; PTH+ALN: 2.2), suggesting connectivity repair required less new bone formation to induce larger gains in stiffness. We conclude that through rod connection and plate perforation filling PTH+ALN combination therapy improved bone stiffness in a more efficient and effective manner than either monotherapy.

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