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Claire L Wood, Ondrej Soucek, Sze C Wong, Farasat Zaman, Colin Farquharson, Lars Savendahl, and S Faisal Ahmed

Glucocorticoids (GCs) are effective for the treatment of many chronic conditions, but their use is associated with frequent and wide-ranging adverse effects including osteoporosis and growth retardation. The mechanisms that underlie the undesirable effects of GCs on skeletal development are unclear, and there is no proven effective treatment to combat them. An in vivo model that investigates the development and progression of GC-induced changes in bone is, therefore, important and a well-characterized pre-clinical model is vital for the evaluation of new interventions. Currently, there is no established animal model to investigate GC effects on skeletal development and there are pros and cons to consider with the different protocols used to induce osteoporosis and growth retardation. This review will summarize the literature and highlight the models and techniques employed in experimental studies to date.

Open access

Claire L Wood, Rob van ‘t Hof, Scott Dillon, Volker Straub, Sze C Wong, S Faisal Ahmed, and Colin Farquharson

Short stature and osteoporosis are common in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and its pathophysiology may include an abnormality of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 (GH/IGF-1) axis, which is further exacerbated by long-term glucocorticoid (GC) treatment. Hence, an agent that has anabolic properties and may improve linear growth would be beneficial in this setting and therefore requires further exploration. A 5-week-old x-linked muscular dystrophy (mdx) mice were used as a model of DMD. They were treated with prednisolone ± GH + IGF-1 for 4 weeks and then compared to control mdx mice to allow the study of both growth and skeletal structure. GC reduced cortical bone area, bone fraction, tissue area and volume and cortical bone volume, as assessed by micro computed tomography (CT) In addition, GC caused somatic and skeletal growth retardation but improved grip strength. The addition of GH + IGF-1 therapy rescued the somatic growth retardation and induced additional improvements in grip strength (16.9% increase, P  < 0.05 compared to control). There was no improvement in bone microarchitecture (assessed by micro-CT and static histomorphometry) or biomechanical properties (assessed by three-point bending). Serum bone turnover markers (Serum procollagen 1 intact N-terminal propeptide (P1NP), alpha C-terminal telopeptide (αCTX)) also remained unaffected. Further work is needed to maximise these gains before proceeding to clinical trials in boys with DMD.