Generalized metabolic bone disease in Neurofibromatosis type I

Mol Genet Metab. 2008 May;94(1):105-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2007.12.004. Epub 2008 Mar 4.


Skeletal abnormalities are a recognized component of Neurofibromatosis type I (NF1) but a generalized metabolic bone defect in NF1 has not been fully characterized thus far. The purpose of this study was to characterize at the densitometric, biochemical and pathological level the bone involvement in NF1 patients. Using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) we analyzed bone status in 73 unselected NF1 subjects, 26 males and 47 females, mainly children and adolescents (mean age: 16.6 years). In a subgroup of subjects with low bone mass, we measured indices of calcium-phosphate metabolism, bone turnover, and bone density before and after vitamin D and calcium treatment. We found statistically significant and generalized reduction in bone mass with the mean lumbar bone mineral density (BMD) z-score being -1.38+/-1.05 (CI 95% -1.62 to -1.13), and whole body bone mineral content (BMC) z-score -0.61+/-1.19 (CI 95% -0.94 to -0.29), both significantly reduced compared to normal controls (p<.001). PTH was moderately elevated and after 4 months of supplemental therapy with calcium and vitamin D, it decreased to the normal range. However, BMD z-scores did not significantly improve after 2 years of follow-up. Histological analysis of bone samples from NF1 patients revealed substantial alteration of bone microarchitecture due mainly to reduced trabecular bone. Our observations are consistent with a generalized bone metabolic defect due to loss of the function of neurofibromin. Early identification of patients with osteoporosis may permit more timely and aggressive treatments to prevent the likely substantial morbidity associated with increased fracture risk later in life.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / etiology*
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / pathology
  • Calcium / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / complications*
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 / diagnosis*
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Calcium