Bone autograft is generally preferred by surgeons because, as well as eliminating the risks associated with allografts, bone autograft contains native bone-forming cells (osteoblasts), so the graft actually forms new bone itself (osteoinductive), as well as acting as a matrix or scaffold to new bone growing from the bones being bridged (osteoconductive). The main drawback of bone autograft is the limited supply available for harvest.
Bone allograft has the advantage of being available in far larger quantities than autograft; however, the treatment process the bone goes through following harvest, which usually involves deep-freezing and may also involve demineralization, irradiation and/or freeze-drying, kills living bone or bone marrow cells. This significantly reduces the immunogenicity (risk of graft rejection) such that no anti rejection drugs are needed and, combined with appropriate donor screening practices, these processing and preservation practices can significantly reduce the risk of disease transmission. In spite of all of this processing, cancellous allograft bone retains its osteoconductive properties. Furthermore, certain processing practices have been shown to also retain the acid-stable osteoinductive proteins in cortical bone grafts, so that many bone allografts can be considered both osteoconductive and osteoinductive.
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