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Bone. 2000 Jun;26(6):581-9.

Static and dynamic bone histomorphometry in children with osteogenesis imperfecta.

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Genetics Unit, Shriners Hospital, and the Departments of Surgery and Pediatrics, McGill University, Montréal, Canada.


Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is a genetic disorder characterized by increased bone fragility and low bone mass. Four clinical types are commonly distinguished. Schematically, type I is the mildest phenotype, type II is usually lethal, type III is the most severe form compatible with postnatal survival, and type IV is moderately severe. Although mutations affecting collagen type I are responsible for the disease in most patients, the mechanisms by which the genetic defects cause abnormal bone development have not been well characterized. Therefore, we evaluated quantitative static and dynamic histomorphometric parameters in tetracycline-labeled iliac bone biopsies from 70 children, aged 1.5 to 13.5 years, with OI types I (n = 32), III (n = 11), and IV (n = 27). Results were compared with those of 27 age-matched controls without metabolic bone disease. Biopsy core width, cortical width, and cancellous bone volume were clearly decreased in all OI types. Decreased cancellous bone volume was due to a 41%-57% reduction in trabecular number and a 15%-27% lower trabecular thickness. Regression analyses revealed that trabecular number did not vary with age in either controls or OI patients, indicating that no trabecular loss occurred. The annual increase in trabecular thickness was 5.8 microm in controls and 3.6 microm in type I OI, whereas no trabecular thickening was evident in type III and IV OI. Wall thickness, which reflects the amount of bone formed during a remodeling cycle, was decreased by 14% in a subgroup of 17 type I OI patients, but was not determined in the other OI types. The remodeling balance was less positive in type I OI than in controls, and probably close to zero in types III and IV. Surface-based parameters of bone remodeling were increased in all OI types, indicating increased recruitment of remodeling units. No defect in matrix mineralization was found. In conclusion, there was evidence of defects in all three mechanisms, which normally lead to an increase in bone mass during childhood; that is, modeling of external bone size and shape, production of secondary trabeculae by endochondral ossification, and thickening of secondary trabeculae by remodeling. Thus, OI might be regarded as a disease in which a single genetic defect in the osteoblast interferes with multiple mechanisms that normally ensure adaptation of the skeleton to the increasing mechanical needs during growth.

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