Bone remodeling during fracture repair: The cellular picture

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2008 Oct;19(5):459-66. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2008.07.004. Epub 2008 Jul 25.


Fracture healing is a complex event that involves the coordination of a variety of different processes. Repair is typically characterized by four overlapping stages: the initial inflammatory response, soft callus formation, hard callus formation, initial bony union and bone remodeling. However, repair can also be seen to represent a juxtaposition of two distinct forces: anabolism or tissue formation, and catabolism or remodeling. These anabolic/catabolic concepts are useful for understanding bone repair without giving the false impression of temporally distinct stages that operate independently. They are also relevant when considering intervention. In normal bone development, bone remodeling conventionally refers to the removal of calcified bone tissue by osteoclasts. However, in the context of bone repair there are two phases of tissue catabolism: the removal of the initial cartilaginous soft callus, followed by the eventual remodeling of the bony hard callus. In this review, we have attempted to examine catabolism/remodeling in fractures in a systematic fashion. The first section briefly summarizes the traditional four-stage view of fracture repair in a physiological manner. The second section highlights some of the limitations of using a temporal rather than process-driven model and summarizes the anabolic/catabolic paradigm of fracture repair. The third section examines the cellular participants in soft callus remodeling and in particular the role of the osteoclast in endochondral ossification. Finally, the fourth section examines the effects of delaying osteoclast-dependent hard callus remodeling and also poses questions regarding the crosstalk between anabolism and catabolism in the latter stages of fracture repair.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bone Remodeling / drug effects*
  • Bony Callus / drug effects
  • Diphosphonates / administration & dosage
  • Diphosphonates / pharmacology*
  • Fracture Healing / drug effects*
  • Fractures, Bone / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteoblasts / cytology
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Osteoclasts / cytology
  • Osteoclasts / drug effects


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Diphosphonates