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Mol Diagn Ther. 2008;12(3):157-70.

Biomarkers for osteoporosis management: utility in diagnosis, fracture risk prediction and therapy monitoring.

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  • 1INSERM Unit 664, LaĆ«nnec School of Medicine, Lyon, France.


Osteoporosis is a systemic disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue, resulting in an increased risk of fracture. While the level of bone mass can be estimated by measuring bone mineral density (BMD) using dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), its measurement does not capture all the risk factors for fracture. Quantitative changes in skeletal turnover can be assessed easily and non-invasively by the measurement of serum and urinary biochemical markers; the most sensitive markers include serum osteocalcin, bone specific alkaline phosphatase, the N-terminal propeptide of type I collagen for bone formation, and the crosslinked C- (CTX) and N- (NTX) telopeptides of type I collagen for bone resorption. Advances in our knowledge of bone matrix biochemistry, most notably of post-translational modifications in type I collagen, are likely to lead to the development of new biochemical markers that reflect changes in the material property of bone, an important determinant of bone strength. Among those, the measurement of the urinary ratio of native (alpha) to isomerized (beta) CTX - an index of bone matrix maturation - has been shown to be predictive of fracture risk independently of BMD and bone turnover. In postmenopausal osteoporosis, levels of bone resorption markers above the upper limit of the premenopausal range are associated with an increased risk of hip, vertebral, and nonvertebral fracture, independent of BMD. Therefore, the combined use of BMD measurement and biochemical markers is helpful in risk assessment, especially in those women who are not identified as at risk by BMD measurement alone. Levels of bone markers decrease rapidly with antiresorptive therapies, and the levels reached after 3-6 months of therapy have been shown to be more strongly associated with fracture outcome than changes in BMD. Preliminary studies indicate that monitoring changes of bone formation markers could also be useful to monitor anabolic therapies, including intermittent parathyroid hormone administration and, possibly, to improve adherence to treatment. Thus, repeated measurements of bone markers during therapy may help improve the management of osteoporosis in patients.

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