European Journal of Endocrinology

 MECHANISMS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY: Genetics of human bone formation

Throughout life, bone is continuously remodelled to be able to fulfil its multiple functions. The importance of strictly regulating the bone remodelling process, which is defined by the sequential actions of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, is shown by a variety of disorders with abnormalities in bone mass and strength. The best known and most common example of such a disorder is osteoporosis, which is marked by a decreased bone mass and strength that consequently results in an increased fracture risk. As osteoporosis is a serious health problem, a large number of studies focus on elucidating the aetiology of the disease as well as on the identification of novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of osteoporotic patients. These studies have demonstrated that a large amount of variation in bone mass and strength is often influenced by genetic variation in genes encoding important regulators of bone homeostasis. Throughout the years, studies into the genetic causes of osteoporosis as well as several rare monogenic disorders with abnormal high or low bone mass and strength have largely increased the knowledge on regulatory pathways important for bone resorption and formation. This review gives an overview of genes and pathways that are important for the regulation of bone formation and that are identified through their involvement in monogenic and complex disorders with abnormal bone mass. Furthermore, novel bone-forming strategies for the treatment of osteoporosis that resulted from these discoveries, such as antibodies against sclerostin, are discussed as well.