Research Article

Impaired osteoblast function in osteoporosis: comparison between calcium balance and dynamic histomorphometry.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 289 doi: (Published 01 September 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;289:517
  1. M Arlot,
  2. C Edouard,
  3. P J Meunier,
  4. R M Neer,
  5. J Reeve


    Osteoblast function was investigated in 27 patients with idiopathic osteoporosis. Transiliac bone biopsy specimens were taken after double labelling with tetracycline, and metabolic calcium balance was studied almost simultaneously. Many of the patients showed poor double labelling of their otherwise unremarkable trabecular osteoid, suggesting impaired formation of bone at many of these surfaces. This phenomenon was not accompanied by increased width of osteoid seams (as seen in osteomalacia), indicating that formation of the matrix and its mineralisation were in equilibrium. For the first time, highly significant positive correlations (p less than 0.01) were found between indices of bone formation, determined by labelling with tetracycline, and calcium balance. Thus some patients with osteoporosis who are rapidly losing bone have low rates of formation of trabecular bone both by individual osteoblasts and in relation to available bone surfaces. As histological indices of bone resorption also independently correlated strongly and inversely (p less than 0.01) with calcium balance the rate of initiation of new basic multicellular units by osteoclastic resorption of trabecular surfaces (or the depth of resorption at these surfaces) also appears to be an important determinant of mineral balance. The mechanisms that regulate the effective life span of mature osteoblasts require further investigation, particularly as some promising treatments that can increase trabecular bone volume in osteoporosis, such as parathyroid peptide hPTH (1-34) and sodium fluoride, must work through a reversal of osteoblastic depression.