Bone modelling and remodelling are cell-mediated processes responsible for the construction and reconstruction of the skeleton throughout life. These processes are chiefly mediated by locally generated cytokines and growth factors that regulate the differentiation, activation, work and life span of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the cells that co-ordinate the volumes of bone resorbed and formed. In this way, the material composition and structural design of bone is regulated in accordance with its loading requirements. Abnormalities in this regulatory system compromise the material and structural determinants of bone strength producing bone fragility. Understanding the intercellular control processes that regulate bone modelling and remodelling is essential in planning therapeutic approaches to prevention and treatment of bone fragility. A great deal has been learnt in the last decade. Clinical trials carried out exclusively with drugs that inhibit bone resorption have identified the importance of reducing the rate of bone remodelling and so the progression of bone fragility to achieved fracture reductions of approx. 50%. These trials have also identified limitations that should be placed upon interpretation of bone mineral density changes in relation to treatment. New resorption inhibitors are being developed, based on mechanisms of action that are different from existing drugs. Some of these might offer resorption inhibition without reducing bone formation. More recent research has provided the first effective anabolic therapy for bone reconstruction. Daily injections of PTH (parathyroid hormone)-(1–34) have been shown in preclinical studies and in a large clinical trial to increase bone tissue mass and reduce the risk of fractures. The action of PTH differs from that of the resorption inhibitors, but whether it is more effective in fracture reduction is not known. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of PTH action, particularly its interactions with other pathways in determining bone formation, is likely to lead to new therapeutic developments. The recent discovery through mouse genetics that PTHrP (PTH-related protein) is a crucial bone-derived paracrine regulator of remodelling offers new and interesting therapeutic targets.

You do not currently have access to this content.