Aims: Preliminary studies have suggested that there is an increase in adipocytic tissue in osteoporotic (OP) bone, supporting in vitro evidence for a switch in differentiation of stromal cells from the osteoblastic to the adipocytic lineage. To investigate this the variation of the ratio of adipose tissue to haemopoietic/stromal tissue in OP bone was measured.
Methods: The ratio of adipocytic to haemopoietic/stromal tissue (A/H) was measured by semi-automated image analysis in iliac crest biopsies from 127 patients with osteoporosis (84 female patients, 48 male patients; mean age, 55 years; range, 5–80). Fourteen patients with normal histomorphometric data (nine women; five men; mean age, 48 years; range 21–70) acted as controls.
Results: The ratio of A/H was higher in OP bone than in the normal controls (OP mean 43.06% v normal mean 22.4%; p < 0.001). Multiple regression analysis showed that 98.5% of the variability in the A/H ratio was the result of age and several measures of bone formation, including cancellous wall thickness, osteoid volume, cancellous thickness, cortical wall thickness, cancellous apposition rate, and bone formation rate, together with cancellous separation (each significant at p < 0.001). Those with the greatest effect on the A/H ratio (in decreasing order) were cancellous apposition rate, osteoid volume, and age.
Conclusions: Cancellous apposition rate, osteoid volume, and age were associated with the increase in the proportion of adipose tissue present in OP bone. Of these, cancellous apposition rate reflects osteoblast activity, indicating that the increase in the volume of adipose tissue in osteoporosis is associated with reduced bone formation, supporting the postulated switch in differentiation of stromal cells from the osteoblastic to the adipocytic pathway in osteoporosis.
Keywords: osteoporosis, histomorphometry, bone marrow stromal cell differentiation