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Concept: Skeletal system


BACKGROUND: Cycling is considered to be a highly beneficial sport for significantly enhancing cardiovascular fitness in individuals, yet studies show little or no corresponding improvements in bone mass. METHODS: A scientific literature search on studies discussing bone mass and bone metabolism in cyclists was performed to collect all relevant published material up to April 2012. Descriptive, cross-sectional, longitudinal and interventional studies were all reviewed. Inclusion criteria were met by 31 studies. RESULTS: Heterogeneous studies in terms of gender, age, data source, group of comparison, cycling level or modality practiced among others factors showed minor but important differences in results. Despite some controversial results, it has been observed that adult road cyclists participating in regular training have low bone mineral density in key regions (for example, lumbar spine). Conversely, other types of cycling (such as mountain biking), or combination with other sports could reduce this unsafe effect. These results cannot yet be explained by differences in dietary patterns or endocrine factors. CONCLUSIONS: From our comprehensive survey of the current available literature it can be concluded that road cycling does not appear to confer any significant osteogenic benefit. The cause of this may be related to spending long hours in a weight-supported position on the bike in combination with the necessary enforced recovery time that involves a large amount of time sitting or lying supine, especially at the competitive level. See related commentary

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Lumbar vertebrae, Cycling, Bicycle


Bone loss caused by ionizing radiation is a potential health concern for radiotherapy patients, radiation workers and astronauts. In animal studies, exposure to ionizing radiation increases oxidative damage in skeletal tissues, and results in an imbalance in bone remodeling initiated by increased bone-resorbing osteoclasts. Therefore, we evaluated various candidate interventions with antioxidant or anti-inflammatory activities (antioxidant cocktail, dihydrolipoic acid, ibuprofen, dried plum) both for their ability to blunt the expression of resorption-related genes in marrow cells after irradiation with either gamma rays (photons, 2 Gy) or simulated space radiation (protons and heavy ions, 1 Gy) and to prevent bone loss. Dried plum was most effective in reducing the expression of genes related to bone resorption (Nfe2l2, Rankl, Mcp1, Opg, TNF-α) and also preventing later cancellous bone decrements caused by irradiation with either photons or heavy ions. Thus, dietary supplementation with DP may prevent the skeletal effects of radiation exposures either in space or on Earth.

Concepts: Electron, Bone, Cancer, Ionizing radiation, Bacteria, Skeletal system, Atom, Osteoclast


Because of its close relationship to tetrapods, Eusthenopteron is an important taxon for understanding the establishment of the tetrapod body plan. Notably, it is one of the earliest sarcopterygians in which the humerus of the pectoral fin skeleton is preserved. The microanatomical and histological organization of this humerus provides important data for understanding the evolutionary steps that built up the distinctive architecture of tetrapod limb bones. Previous histological studies showed that Eusthenopteron’s long-bone organization was established through typical tetrapod ossification modalities. Based on a three-dimensional reconstruction of the inner microstructure of Eusthenopteron’s humerus, obtained from propagation phase-contrast X-ray synchrotron microtomography, we are now able to show that, despite ossification mechanisms and growth patterns similar to those of tetrapods, it also retains plesiomorphic characters such as a large medullary cavity, partly resulting from the perichondral ossification around a large cartilaginous bud as in actinopterygians. It also exhibits a distinctive tubular organization of bone-marrow processes. The connection between these processes and epiphyseal structures highlights their close functional relationship, suggesting that either bone marrow played a crucial role in the long-bone elongation processes or that trabecular bone resulting from the erosion of hypertrophied cartilage created a microenvironment for haematopoietic stem cell niches.

Concepts: Bone, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Cartilage, Bird, Tetrapod, Long bone, Ichthyostega


Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), the most abundant growth factor in the bone matrix, maintains bone mass in adulthood. We now report that IGF-1 released from the bone matrix during bone remodeling stimulates osteoblastic differentiation of recruited mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) by activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), thus maintaining proper bone microarchitecture and mass. Mice with knockout of the IGF-1 receptor (Igf1r) in their pre-osteoblastic cells showed lower bone mass and mineral deposition rates than wild-type mice. Further, MSCs from Igf1rflox/flox mice with Igf1r deleted by a Cre adenovirus in vitro, although recruited to the bone surface after implantation, were unable to differentiate into osteoblasts. We also found that the concentrations of IGF-1 in the bone matrix and marrow of aged rats were lower than in those of young rats and directly correlated with the age-related decrease in bone mass. Likewise, in age-related osteoporosis in humans, we found that bone marrow IGF-1 concentrations were 40% lower in individuals with osteoporosis than in individuals without osteoporosis. Notably, injection of IGF-1 plus IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP3), but not injection of IGF-1 alone, increased the concentration of IGF-1 in the bone matrix and stimulated new bone formation in aged rats. Together, these results provide mechanistic insight into how IGF-1 maintains adult bone mass, while also providing a further rationale for its therapeutic targeting to treat age-related osteoporosis.

Concepts: Bone, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Cellular differentiation, Insulin-like growth factor 1, Insulin-like growth factor


Epidemiologic studies correlate low vitamin C intake with bone loss. The genetic deletion of enzymes involved in de novo vitamin C synthesis in mice, likewise, causes severe osteoporosis. However, very few studies have evaluated a protective role of this dietary supplement on the skeleton. Here, we show that the ingestion of vitamin C prevents the low-turnover bone loss following ovariectomy in mice. We show that this prevention in areal bone mineral density and micro-CT parameters results from the stimulation of bone formation, demonstrable in vivo by histomorphometry, bone marker measurements, and quantitative PCR. Notably, the reductions in the bone formation rate, plasma osteocalcin levels, and ex vivo osteoblast gene expression 8 weeks post-ovariectomy are all returned to levels of sham-operated controls. The study establishes vitamin C as a skeletal anabolic agent.

Concepts: DNA, Osteoporosis, Bone, Gene, Genetics, Molecular biology, Skeletal system, Intramembranous ossification


The detection of estrogen receptor-α (ERα) in osteoblasts and osteoclasts over 20 years ago suggested that direct effects of estrogens on both of these cell types are responsible for their beneficial effects on the skeleton, but the role of ERα in osteoblast lineage cells has remained elusive. In addition, estrogen activation of ERα in osteoclasts can only account for the protective effect of estrogens on the cancellous, but not the cortical, bone compartment that represents 80% of the entire skeleton. Here, we deleted ERα at different stages of differentiation in murine osteoblast lineage cells. We found that ERα in osteoblast progenitors expressing Osterix1 (Osx1) potentiates Wnt/β-catenin signaling, thereby increasing proliferation and differentiation of periosteal cells. Further, this signaling pathway was required for optimal cortical bone accrual at the periosteum in mice. Notably, this function did not require estrogens. The osteoblast progenitor ERα mediated a protective effect of estrogens against endocortical, but not cancellous, bone resorption. ERα in mature osteoblasts or osteocytes did not influence cancellous or cortical bone mass. Hence, the ERα in both osteoblast progenitors and osteoclasts functions to optimize bone mass but at distinct bone compartments and in response to different cues.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Osteoclast, Osseous tissue, Intramembranous ossification, Osteoblast


Vitamin D insufficiency in children may have long-term skeletal consequences as vitamin D affects calcium absorption, bone mineralization and bone mass attainment.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Vitamin D, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Calcium, Dietary mineral


A finding of high BMD on routine DXA scanning is not infrequent and most commonly reflects degenerative disease. However, BMD increases may also arise secondary to a range of underlying disorders affecting the skeleton. Although low BMD increases fracture risk, the converse may not hold for high BMD, since elevated BMD may occur in conditions where fracture risk is increased, unaffected or reduced. Here we outline a classification for the causes of raised BMD, based on identification of focal or generalized BMD changes, and discuss an approach to guide appropriate investigation by clinicians after careful interpretation of DXA scan findings within the context of the clinical history. We will also review the mild skeletal dysplasia associated with the currently unexplained high bone mass phenotype and discuss recent advances in osteoporosis therapies arising from improved understanding of rare inherited high BMD disorders.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, Human skeleton, Skeleton


BACKGROUND: Osteoinductive bone substitutes are defined by their ability to induce new bone formation even at heterotopic implantation sites. The present study was designed to analyze the potential osteoinductivity of two different bone substitute materials in caprine muscle tissue.Materials and methods: One gram each of either a porous beta-tricalcium phosphate (beta-TCP) or an hydroxyapatite/silicon dioxide (HA/SiO2)-based nanocrystalline bone substitute material was implanted in several muscle pouches of goats. The biomaterials were explanted at 29, 91 and 181 days after implantation. Conventional histology and special histochemical stains were performed to detect osteoblast precursor cells as well as mineralized and unmineralized bone matrix. RESULTS: Both materials underwent cellular degradation in which tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positive osteoclast-like cells and TRAP-negative multinucleated giant cells were involved. The Ss-TCP was completely resorbed within the observation period, whereas some granules of the HA-groups were still detectable after 180 days. Neither osteoblasts, osteoblast precursor cells nor extracellular bone matrix were found within the implantation bed of any of the analyzed biomaterials at any of the observed time points. CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that Ss-TCP underwent a faster degradation than the HA-based material. The lack of osteoinductivity for both materials might be due to their granular shape, as osteoinductivity in goat muscle has been mainly attributed to cylindrical or disc-shaped bone substitute materials. This hypothesis however requires further investigation to systematically analyze various materials with comparable characteristics in the same experimental setting.

Concepts: Extracellular matrix, Skeletal system, Alkaline phosphatase, Observation, Hypothesis, Materials science, Intramembranous ossification, Osteoblast


Physical activity is recommended for skeletal health because bones adapt to mechanical loading. The young skeleton shows greatest plasticity to physical activity-related mechanical loads, but bones are most at risk of failure later in life. The discrepancy raises the question of whether the skeletal benefits of physical activity completed when young persist with aging. Here we present a unique case wherein the cortical bone benefit of physical activity completed over five decades earlier could be established within an individual aged in their tenth decade of life. Specifically, we compared bone properties at the midshaft humerus between the throwing and nonthrowing arms of a 94-year-old former Major League Baseball player who ceased throwing 55 years earlier. By performing analyses within-subject, the long-term skeletal benefit of physical activity completed when young could be assessed independent of inherited and systemic traits. Also, as the subject threw left-handed during his throwing career, but was right-hand dominant in all other activities throughout life, any lasting skeletal benefits in favor of the throwing arm could not be attributable to simple arm dominance. Analyses indicated that any cortical bone mass, area and thickness benefits of throwing-related physical activity completed when young were lost with aging, possibly due to accelerated intracortical remodeling. In contrast, the subject’s throwing (nondominant) arm had greater total cross-sectional area and estimated strength (polar moment of inertia) than in his dominant arm, despite muscle indices favoring the latter. These data indicate that physical activity completed when young can have lasting benefits on bone size and strength, independent of the maintenance of bone mass benefits.

Concepts: Bone, Skeletal system, Ageing, Intramembranous ossification, Area, Moment of inertia, Skeleton, Major League Baseball