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Transgenic and knock out mice in skeletal research. Towards a molecular understanding of the mammalian skeleton.

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Department of Trauma Surgery, Hamburg University School of Medicine, Hamburg, Germany.


Our understanding of the biology of the skeleton, like that of virtually every other subject in biology, has been transformed by recent advances in human and mouse genetics. Among mammals, mice are the most promising animals for this experimental work. Because extensive genetic information exists, many mouse mutations are known, and cells from early mouse developmental stages are accessible, scientists have developed transgenic mice - mice in which a gene is introduced or ablated in the germ line. Thus far, we have analyzed more than 100 different transgenic and knock out models with various skeletal phenotypes, covering the major aspects of both skeletal development and skeletal maintenance. Based on these results we here present a first perspective on transgenic and gene knock out animals in skeletal research, including insights in signaling pathways controlling endochondral bone formation, in the regulation of osteoblast function, osteoclastic bone resorption and in bone tumorigenesis, as well as the central control of bone formation. The use of transgenic mice to dissect and analyze regulatory mechanisms in bone cell physiology and the pathogenesis of human bone diseases is an extremely powerful experimental tool. The data presented here demonstrate that the successful convergence of novel genetic approaches with the established and fundamental knowledge of bone biology has made a beginning.

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