Subchondral bone as a key target for osteoarthritis treatment

Biochem Pharmacol. 2012 Feb 1;83(3):315-23. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2011.09.018. Epub 2011 Sep 22.


Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a debilitating and progressive disease that has become a major cause of disability and impaired quality of life in the elderly. OA is considered an organ disease that affects the whole joint, where the subchondral bone (SB) plays a crucial role. Regardless of whether SB alterations precede cartilage damage or appear during the evolution of the disease, SB is currently recognised as a key target in OA treatment. In fact, bone abnormalities, especially increased bone turnover, have been detected in the early evolution of some forms of OA. Systemic osteoporosis (OP) and OA share a paradoxical relationship in which both high and low bone mass conditions may result in induction and/or OA progression. Recent findings suggest that some drugs may be useful in treating both processes simultaneously, at least in a subgroup of patients with OA and OP. This review focuses on the role of SB in OA pathogenesis, describing relevant underlying mechanisms involved in the process and examining the potential activity as disease-modifying anti-osteoarthritic drugs (DMOADs) of certain SB-targeting agents currently under study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Remodeling / drug effects
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism*
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Drug Delivery Systems* / methods
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism*
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Treatment Outcome