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L Lanyon, V Armstrong, D Ong, G Zaman, and J Price

The ability of bones to withstand functional loading without damage depends upon their cell populations establishing and subsequently maintaining a mass and architecture that are appropriately robust for the purpose. In women, the rapid loss of bone associated with the menopause represents a steplike decline in the effectiveness of this process with consequent increase in bone fragility. In men, loss of bone tissue and reduction in bone strength are more gradual and the increased incidence of fragility fractures occurs later. In both sexes, bone mass is associated with levels of bioavailable estrogen. This poses the major question as to how the presence or concentration of the reproductive hormone estrogen influences the relationship between bone mass and bone loading. In this paper, we briefly review evidence of the mechanism(s) by which the mechanical strains engendered by loading influence bone cells to establish and maintain structurally competent bone architecture. We highlight the finding that at least one strain-related cascade responsible for adaptive control of bone architecture is mediated through estrogen receptor (ER) alpha, the number and activity of which are regulated by estrogen. We hypothesize that a major contributor to the rapid loss of bone mass that occurs in females, and the slower age-related fall in males and females, is reduced effectiveness of ER-mediated processing of strain-related information by resident bone cells.

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KC Lee, H Jessop, R Suswillo, G Zaman, and LE Lanyon

Postmenopausal osteoporosis represents a failure of the response by which bone cells adapt bone mass and architecture to be sufficiently strong to withstand loading without fracture. To address why this failure should be associated with oestrogen withdrawal, we investigated the ulna's adaptive response to mechanical loading in adult female mice lacking oestrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha(-/-)), those lacking oestrogen receptor-beta (ERbeta(-/-)) and their wild-type littermates. In wild-type mice, short periods of physiologic cyclic compressive loading of the ulna in vivo over a 2-week period stimulates new bone formation. In ERalpha(-/-) and ERbeta(-/-) mice this osteogenic response was respectively threefold and twofold less (P<0.05). In vitro, primary cultures of osteoblast-like cells derived from these mice were subjected to a single short period of mechanical strain. Twenty-four hours after strain the number of wild-type cells was 61+/-25% higher than in unstrained controls (P<0.05), whereas in ERalpha(-/-) cells there was no strain-related increase in cell number. However, the strain-related response of ERalpha(-/-) cells could be partially rescued by transfection with functional human ERalpha (P<0.05). ERbeta(-/-) cells showed a 125+/-40% increase in cell number following strain. This was significantly greater than in wild types (P<0.05).These data support previous findings that functional ERalpha is required for the full osteogenic response to mechanical loading and particularly the stage of this response, which involves an increase in osteoblast number. ERbeta appears to depress the ERalpha-mediated strain-related increase in osteoblast number in vitro, but in female transgenic mice in vivo the constitutive absence of either ERalpha or ERbeta appears to diminish the osteogenic response to loading.