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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2003 Nov;42(11):1311-6. Epub 2003 Jul 16.

Evidence of altered bone turnover, vitamin D and calcium regulation with knee osteoarthritis in female twins.

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Rheumatology Department, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia.



Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disorder of the whole synovial joint organ. There is growing evidence of the importance of bone turnover in OA, and human studies have demonstrated that the subchondral bone is metabolically active in OA. The aim of this study was to assess the relationships of radiographic knee OA with altered bone turnover and calcium regulation.


We performed a matched and unmatched case-control study using twins assessed for OA. The subjects were 1644 female Caucasian twin pairs (266 monozygotic and 556 dizygotic) aged 24-79 yr from the St Thomas' UK Adult Twin Registry. Assays for measures of bone turnover [bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin and urinary deoxypyridinoline (DPD)] and calcium regulation [serum parathyroid hormone (PTH), 25-hydroxyvitamin D, serum calcium, serum magnesium and serum phosphate] were performed. The radiological features of knee OA were graded on a four-point scale (0-3) for osteophytes and a five-point scale (0-4) for Kellgren and Lawrence classification. Adjustment for age, body mass index (BMI) and relatedness was made. Conditional logistic regression analysis was also used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for having radiological features of knee OA per standardized unit difference of serum variable between twins.


Of the 1644 women studied, 474 (28.8%) had radiological evidence of knee osteophytes. There was evidence of increased bone turnover, increased PTH levels and decreased vitamin D levels in this group compared with those without osteophytes. No association was seen with joint space loss. After adjusting for age, BMI and relatedness, all of the differences disappeared except for a significant increase 10% in urinary DPD (P = 0.04). Discordant twin pair analysis (performed on a subgroup of 229 pairs) confirmed modest increases in bone resorption indicated by urinary DPD (OR 1.67, 95% CI 0.88-3.16) and a significant decrease in serum magnesium (OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.46-0.92) in the co-twins with OA.


Bone resorption is increased in women with knee OA, consistent with metabolically active subchondral bone. However, bone formation, vitamin D and calcium regulation were not different after adjusting for age and BMI. The results suggest that bone resorption is increased in the presence of OA. Although we cannot clearly differentiate a cause or effect relationship, these results suggest that this is related to disease mechanisms and point to potential diagnostic or therapeutic avenues for bone resorption in OA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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