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Bonekey Rep. 2012 Dec 5;1:229. doi: 10.1038/bonekey.2012.229.

Osteocytic osteolysis: time for a second look?

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Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University School of Medicine , New Haven, CT, USA.


Over 100 years ago it was suggested that osteocytes could remodel their surrounding environment by removing and replacing bone. In the 1960s and 1970s, many observations were made to suggest that osteocytes could resorb bone and increase the size of their lacunae. This concept became known as osteocytic osteolysis and studies suggested that it occurred in response to diverse stimuli such as parathyroid hormone, calcium restriction, hibernation and reproductive cycles. However, this concept fell out of favor in the late 1970s when it became clear that osteoclasts were the principal bone-resorbing cells in the skeleton. Over the past decade, we have increasingly appreciated that osteocytes are remarkably versatile cells and are involved in all aspects of skeletal biology, including the response to loading, the regulation of bone turnover and the control of mineral metabolism. Recent data have demonstrated that osteocytes remodel their perilacunar and canalicular matrix and participate in the liberation of skeletal calcium stores during lactation. In light of these new findings, it may be time to reassess the concept of osteocytic osteolysis and reconsider whether osteocyte lacunar and canalicular remodeling contributes more broadly to the maintenance of skeletal and mineral homeostasis.

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