Arthritic bone loss in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis is the result of a combination of osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation. This process is not completely understood, and especially the importance of local inflammation needs further investigation. We evaluated how bone formation and bone resorption are altered in experimental autoimmune arthritis.
Twenty-one female SKG mice were randomized to either an arthritis group or a control group. Tetracycline was used to identify mineralizing surfaces. After six weeks the right hind paws were embedded undecalcified in methylmethacrylate. The paws were cut exhaustively according to the principles of vertical sectioning and systematic sampling. 3D design-based methods were used to estimate the total number of osteoclasts, mineralizing surfaces, eroded surfaces, and osteoclast-covered bone surfaces. In addition the presence of adjacent inflammation was ascertained.
The total number of osteoclasts, mineralizing surfaces, eroded surfaces, and osteoclast covered surfaces were elevated in arthritic paws compared to normal paws. Mineralizing surfaces were elevated adjacent to as well as not adjacent to inflammation in arthritic mice compared to normal mice. In arthritic mice, eroded surfaces and osteoclast covered surfaces were larger on bone surfaces adjacent to inflammation than on bone surfaces without adjacent inflammation. However, we found no difference between mineralizing surfaces at bone surfaces with or without inflammation in arthritic mice.
Inflammation induced an increase in resorptive bone surfaces as well as formative bone surfaces. The bone formative response may be more general, since formative bone surfaces were also increased when not associated with inflammation. Thus, the bone loss may be the result of a substantial local bone resorption, which cannot be compensated by the increased local bone formation. These findings may be valuable for the development of new osteoblast targeting drugs in RA.