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Ernesto Canalis

Skeletal anabolic agents enhance bone formation, which is determined by the number and function of osteoblasts. Signals that influence the differentiation and function of cells of the osteoblast lineage play a role in the mechanism of action of anabolic agents in the skeleton. Wnts induce the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells toward osteoblasts, and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) enhances the function of mature osteoblasts. The activity of Wnt and IGF-I is controlled by proteins that bind to the growth factor or to its receptors. Sclerostin is a Wnt antagonist that binds to Wnt co-receptors and prevents Wnt signal activation. Teriparatide, a 1–34 amino terminal fragment of parathyroid hormone (PTH), and abaloparatide, a modified 1–34 amino terminal fragment of PTH-related peptide (PTHrp), induce IGF-I, increase bone mineral density (BMD), reduce the incidence of vertebral and non-vertebral fractures and are approved for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Romosozumab, a humanized anti-sclerostin antibody, increases bone formation, decreases bone resorption, increases BMD and reduces the incidence of vertebral fractures. An increased incidence of cardiovascular events has been associated with romosozumab, which is yet to be approved for the treatment of osteoporosis. In conclusion, cell and molecular studies have formed the foundation for the development of new anabolic therapies for osteoporosis with proven efficacy on the incidence of new fractures.

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Stefano Zanotti and Ernesto Canalis

Notch receptors are single-pass transmembrane proteins that determine cell fate. Upon Notch ligand interactions, proteolytic cleavages release the Notch intracellular domain, which translocates to the nucleus to regulate the transcription of target genes, including Hairy enhancer of split (Hes) and Hes related to YRPW motif (Hey). Notch is critical for skeletal development and activity of skeletal cells, and dysregulation of Notch signaling is associated with human diseases affecting the skeleton. Inherited or sporadic mutations in components of the Notch signaling pathway are associated with spondylocostal dysostosis, spondylothoracic dysostosis and recessive brachydactyly, diseases characterized by skeletal patterning defects. Inactivating mutations of the Notch ligand JAG1 or of NOTCH2 are associated with Alagille syndrome, and activating mutations in NOTCH2 are associated with Hajdu–Cheney syndrome (HCS). Individuals affected by HCS exhibit osteolysis in distal phalanges and osteoporosis. NOTCH is activated in selected tumors, such as osteosarcoma, and in breast cancer cells that form osteolytic bone metastases. In conclusion, Notch regulates skeletal development and bone remodeling, and gain- or loss-of-function mutations of Notch signaling result in important skeletal diseases.

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Faryal Mirza and Ernesto Canalis

Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by decreased mass and compromised bone strength predisposing to an increased risk of fractures. Although idiopathic osteoporosis is the most common form of osteoporosis, secondary factors may contribute to the bone loss and increased fracture risk in patients presenting with fragility fractures or osteoporosis. Several medical conditions and medications significantly increase the risk for bone loss and skeletal fragility. This review focuses on some of the common causes of osteoporosis, addressing the underlying mechanisms, diagnostic approach and treatment of low bone mass in the presence of these conditions.

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Gherardo Mazziotti, Andrea G A Lania and Ernesto Canalis

Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) exert physiological actions on the skeleton throughout life, by stimulating longitudinal bone growth in children, the acquisition of bone mass during adolescence and the maintenance of skeletal architecture in adults. When GH and IGF-I are secreted in excess, bone remodeling is enhanced leading to deterioration of bone microstructure and impairment of bone strength. Indeed, acromegaly causes skeletal fragility, and vertebral fractures are reported in a remarkable number of subjects exposed to GH and IGF-I excess. The management of skeletal fragility in acromegaly is a challenge, since the awareness of this complication is low, the prediction of fracture risk is difficult to ascertain, the risk of fractures remains after the control of acromegaly and the effectiveness of bone-active drugs is unknown. This review is an update on bone disorders associated with acromegaly and provides a perspective of possible therapeutic approaches based on emerging pathophysiological and clinical information.

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Neil J Gittoes, Sherwin Criseno, Natasha M Appelman-Dijkstra, Jens Bollerslev, Ernesto Canalis, Lars Rejnmark and Zaki Hassan-Smith

Endocrinologists have had to make rapid changes to services so that resources can be focused on the COVID-19 response to help prevent spread of the virus. Herein we provide pragmatic advice on the management of commonly encountered calcium metabolic problems and osteoporosis. Non-urgent elective appointments should be postponed, and remote consultations and digital health solutions promoted. Patients should be empowered to self-manage their conditions safely. Patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers should be directed to assured national or international online resources and specific patient groups. For patients in acute hospital settings, existing emergency guidance on the management of hyper- and hypo-calcaemia should be followed. An approach to osteoporosis management is outlined. IV zoledronic acid infusions can be delayed for 6–9 months during the pandemic. Patients established on denosumab, teriparatide and abaloparatide should continue planned therapy. In the event of supply issues with teriparatide or abaloparatide, pausing this treatment in the short term is likely to be relatively harmless, whereas delaying denosumab may cause an immediate increased risk of fracture. The challenge of this pandemic will act as a catalyst to innovate within our management of metabolic bone and mineral disorders to ensure best use of resources and resilience of healthcare systems in its aftermath.