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Bone. 2007 Jun;40(6):1447-52. Epub 2006 Oct 12.

Skeletal actions of intermittent parathyroid hormone: effects on bone remodelling and structure.

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  • 1School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK.


Intermittent administration of parathyroid hormone peptides has anabolic skeletal effects and reduces fracture risk in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis but the cellular and structural mechanisms by which these effects are mediated have not been fully established. In cancellous and endocortical bone, there is evidence that both modelling and remodelling-based formation contribute to the increase in bone mass although the contribution of these at different time points in the response to PTH has not been established. Despite the large increase in spine bone mineral density, however, significant increases in iliac crest cancellous bone volume and trabecular thickness have not been consistently demonstrated, possibly reflecting site-specific differences in PTH-induced skeletal effects and/or the large sampling and measurement variance associated with assessment of iliac crest cancellous bone volume and structure. In iliac crest cortical bone, increased cortical thickness has been demonstrated, due at least in part to increased endosteal bone formation; there is also some evidence for increased formation on periosteal surfaces. At some sites an increase in cortical porosity may also occur and the overall effects on cortical bone strength, particularly at the hip, remain to be established. Studies in iliac crest bone indicate a trend towards a lower mineralisation density of bone matrix and increased heterogeneity of mineralisation, consistent with new bone formation. In addition, there is a reduction in mineral crystallinity and a shift towards more divalent collagen cross-links, indicating a change towards a younger bone profile. The potential clinical implications of these effects on bone are currently unknown. The stimulatory effect of PTH peptides on bone formation may favour their use in low turnover bone disease and in states of advanced bone loss. Furthermore, if beneficial effects on cortical bone strength are confirmed, efficacy at non-vertebral sites might be superior to those observed with antiresorptive drugs. Better definition of the effects of intermittent PTH administration on cancellous and cortical bone remodelling and structure at different skeletal sites may inform these speculations and is an important area for future research.

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