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J Bone Miner Res. 2012 Aug;27(8):1619-22. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.1691. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

The role of endothelial-mesenchymal transition in heterotopic ossification.

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  • 1Division of Matrix Biology, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a process by which bone forms in soft tissues, in response to injury, inflammation, or genetic disease. This usually occurs by initial cartilage formation, followed by endochondral ossification. A rare disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) allows this mechanism to be induced by a combination of genetic mutation and acute inflammatory responses. FOP patients experience progressive HO throughout their lifetime and form an ectopic skeleton. Recent studies on FOP have suggested that heterotopic cartilage and bone is of endothelial origin. Vascular endothelial cells differentiate into skeletal cells through a mesenchymal stem cell intermediate that is generated by endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT). Local inflammatory signals and/or other changes in the tissue microenvironment mediate the differentiation of endothelial-derived mesenchymal stem cells into chondrocytes and osteoblasts to induce HO. We discuss the current evidence for the endothelial contribution to heterotopic bone formation.

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