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Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1994 Aug;20(3):589-607.

Biochemical markers of bone turnover for the clinical assessment of bone metabolism.

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  • 1Jerry L. Pettis Veterans Administration Medical Center, Loma Linda, California.


Despite these potential problems, biochemical bone markers are the single most sensitive method for monitoring acute changes in bone metabolism. For example, subcutaneous injections of recombinant human insulin-like growth factor I cause a measurable increase in both procollagen and urinary DPD in as little as 1 day. Similarly, it is possible to measure a significant decrease in bone formation as determined by decreases in serum levels of ALP, OC, and C-PCP within 12 hours after the beginning of a PTH infusion study. Additionally, an increase in DPD/cr was determined within 24 hours of the start of bed rest. These changes, seen within 24 hours, are far earlier than could be detected by any other method of monitoring bone metabolism. Thus, biochemical assays have opened a new era where changes in bone metabolism can be detected in hours to days. This acute detectability should be especially helpful to the development of new drugs and the optimization of the use of approved drugs. Accordingly, definite dose-response studies can now be done in a reasonable time. For osteoporosis therapy there are reasons to consider cyclic drug administration, such as avoiding drug resistance (PTH or calcitonin), avoiding overtreatment (bisphosphonates), or avoiding a possible mineralization defect (fluoride). By using biochemical assays, we can determine the optimum amount of "on time" and "off time" in cyclic therapy. Of the bone formation assays, ALP, OC, and PCP, we recommend for routine use the OC assay because of its high discriminant power and because it has been better characterized, in terms of clinical application, than the PCP assays and the ALP IRMA. If, however, the serum cannot be drawn at a specific time in all patients to be studied, we recommend the ALP assay because, unlike the OC assay, it shows no diurnal variation. Of the bone resorption assays, HYP, TRAP, GHYL, and PYD/DPD, we recommend the urine PYD/DPD assay (adjusted for creatinine) because it is commercially available and because, along with the urine GHYL assay, it is the most sensitive bone resorption assay. Established guidelines for the use of assays in patient care is not yet available, largely because of the large intrapatient variation seen with most assays. Once this problem is resolved, it should be possible to apply biochemical assays to routine clinical practice. For example, if the patient has a urine DPD/cr (indicating a high bone resorption rate), the patient would be selected for antiresorptive therapy, and subsequently the urine DPD/cr assay would be repeated during therapy to determine the effective dose of the drug.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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