Osteocyte biology

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

3 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: The study of osteocytes has lagged behind the study of osteoclasts and osteoblasts, for which there exists reams of literature. However, significant advances have been made recently in the area of osteocyte biology. The purpose of this review is to assimilate new information regarding osteocytes from the most recent publications limited to April 1, 2002 through March 31, 2003. Recent findings: Recent findings include markers for osteocytes that might lend insight into their function. Transforming growth factor-β appears to be playing a role in the differentiation process of the osteoblast to the osteocyte. More questions than answers are raised concerning the relation of osteocyte density to parameters such as bone volume and bone remodeling. In addition to data on the effects of mechanical forces on osteocytes, information on the effects of biophysical forces such as pulsed electromagnetic fields and ultrasound are being investigated. The hypothesis that osteocytes can direct both osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation is being validated. Whether the cell supports resorption or formation may depend on the viability state of the cell. These studies on osteocyte viability and the osteocytic response to mechanical and biophysical forces have implications for clinical research and practice. For example, reduced mechanical forces on the skeleton, in conjunction with changes in systemic hormones, could contribute to bone loss resulting from disease such as osteoporosis. Osteocyte cell death or apoptosis may also be responsible for bone loss. Summary: Currently, mechanical strain is still necessary for the efficacy of bone-inducing agents such as parathyroid hormone or bone-maintaining agents such as estrogen. It is predicted that the osteocyte will become a target for therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-316
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Orthopaedics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone remodeling
  • Mechanical strain
  • Osteocyte markers
  • Osteocytes
  • Osteoporosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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