Purpose of review: The osteoclast is the principal bone-resorbing cell. Because of its unique ability to efficiently remove both the mineral and the organic matrix of bone, the osteoclast is an important element of the homeostatic mechanisms that maintain skeletal integrity and serum calcium levels. Over the past 30 years, a number of immune cell modulators have been shown to have effects on osteoclast formation and function. This review will briefly summarize the roles that cytokines have in osteoclast regulation.
Recent findings: A large number of cytokines have been shown to regulate osteoclast formation and function. In addition, a number of additional cytokines are now known to have a major influence on the ability of osteoclasts to resorb bone. Interactions of the immune system with bone, which has been recently labeled 'osteoimmunology', appear to be mediated mainly by cytokine signals. Cytokines are known to regulate many of the responses of bone to inflammatory conditions; however, they also may regulate physiologic responses of bone.
Summary: In the future it is hoped that therapies that target cytokine actions may be used to reduce the effects of inflammatory diseases on bone, as well as to regulate normal bone physiology.