Modeling the interactions between osteoblast and osteoclast activities in bone remodeling

J Theor Biol. 2004 Aug 7;229(3):293-309. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2004.03.023.


We propose a mathematical model explaining the interactions between osteoblasts and osteoclasts, two cell types specialized in the maintenance of the bone integrity. Bone is a dynamic, living tissue whose structure and shape continuously evolves during life. It has the ability to change architecture by removal of old bone and replacement with newly formed bone in a localized process called remodeling. The model described here is based on the idea that the relative proportions of immature and mature osteoblasts control the degree of osteoclastic activity. In addition, osteoclasts control osteoblasts differentially depending on their stage of differentiation. Despite the tremendous complexity of the bone regulatory system and its fragmentary understanding, we obtain surprisingly good correlations between the model simulations and the experimental observations extracted from the literature. The model results corroborate all behaviors of the bone remodeling system that we have simulated, including the tight coupling between osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the catabolic effect induced by continuous administration of PTH, the catabolic action of RANKL, as well as its reversal by soluble antagonist OPG. The model is also able to simulate metabolic bone diseases such as estrogen deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, senescence and glucocorticoid excess. Conversely, possible routes for therapeutic interventions are tested and evaluated. Our model confirms that anti-resorptive therapies are unable to partially restore bone loss, whereas bone formation therapies yield better results. The model enables us to determine and evaluate potential therapies based on their efficacy. In particular, the model predicts that combinations of anti-resorptive and anabolic therapies provide significant benefits compared with monotherapy, especially for certain type of skeletal disease. Finally, the model clearly indicates that increasing the size of the pool of preosteoblasts is an essential ingredient for the therapeutic manipulation of bone formation. This model was conceived as the first step in a bone turnover modeling platform. These initial modeling results are extremely encouraging and lead us to proceed with additional explorations into bone turnover and skeletal remodeling.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / drug therapy
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / physiopathology
  • Bone Remodeling*
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Osteoblasts / physiology*
  • Osteoclasts / physiology*
  • Parathyroid Hormone / physiology


  • Parathyroid Hormone