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J Bone Miner Res. 2001 Jun;16(6):1120-9.

Number and proliferative capacity of osteogenic stem cells are maintained during aging and in patients with osteoporosis.

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University Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Aarhus Amtssygehus, Denmark.


Decreased bone formation is an important pathophysiological mechanism responsible for bone loss associated with aging and osteoporosis. Osteoblasts (OBs), originate from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that are present in the bone marrow and form colonies (termed colony-forming units-fibroblastic [CFU-Fs]) when cultured in vitro. To examine the effect of aging and osteoporosis on the MSC population, we quantified the number of MSCs and their proliferative capacity in vitro. Fifty-one individuals were studied: 38 normal volunteers (23 young individuals [age, 22-44 years] and 15 old individuals [age, 66-74 years]) and 13 patients with osteoporosis (age, 58-83 years). Bone marrow was aspirated from iliac crest; mononuclear cells were enriched in MSCs by magnetic activated cell sorting (MACS) using STRO-1 antibody. Total CFU-F number, size distribution, cell density per CFU-F, number of alkaline phosphatase positive (ALP+) CFU-Fs, and the total ALP+ cells were determined. In addition, matrix mineralization as estimated by alizarin red S (AR-S) staining was quantified. No significant difference in colony-forming efficiency between young individuals (mean +/- SEM; 87 +/- 12 CFU-Fs/culture), old individuals (99 +/- 19 CFU-Fs/culture), and patients with osteoporosis (129 +/- 13 CFU-Fs/culture; p = 0.20) was found. Average CFU-F size and cell density per colony were similar in the three groups. Neither the percentage of ALP+ CFU-Fs (66 +/- 6%, 65 +/- 7%, and 72 +/- 4% for young individuals, old individuals, and patients with osteoporosis, respectively) nor the percentage of ALP+ cells per culture (34 +/- 5%, 40 +/- 6%, and 41 +/- 4%) differed between groups. Finally, mineralized matrix formation was similar in young individuals, old individuals, and patients with osteoporosis. Our study shows that the number and proliferative capacity of osteoprogenitor cells are maintained during aging and in patients with osteoporosis and that other mechanisms must be responsible for the defective osteoblast (OB) functions observed in these conditions.

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