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Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 2008 Aug;4(8):413-9. doi: 10.1038/ncprheum0838. Epub 2008 Jun 17.

Beta-catenin in the race to fracture repair: in it to Wnt.

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  • 1University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.


The Wnt/beta-catenin pathway regulates multiple biological events during embryonic development, including bone formation. Fracture repair recapitulates some of the processes of normal bone development, such as the formation of bone from a cartilaginous template, and many cell-signaling pathways that underlie bone development are activated during the repair process. The Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway is activated during fracture repair, and dysregulation of this pathway alters the normal bone-healing response. In early pluripotent mesenchymal stem cells, Wnt/beta-catenin signaling needs to be precisely regulated to facilitate the differentiation of osteoblasts; by contrast, beta-catenin is not needed for chondrocyte differentiation. Once mesenchymal stem cells are committed to the osteoblast lineage, activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling enhances bone formation. This activity suggests that the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway is a therapeutic target during bone repair. Indeed, treatments that activate Wnt/beta-catenin signaling, such as lithium, increase bone density and also enhance healing.

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