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November 4, 1992

Research Turns to Perhaps Overlooked Osteocytes in Efforts to Find Answers to Osteogenesis Puzzle

JAMA. 1992;268(17):2353-2357. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490170021007

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A NEW PARADIGM of osteogenesis has emerged in recent years, and focused in the research spotlight is a "forgotten" group of cells, embedded in bone tissue, called osteocytes.

Through studies that are just now taking shape, scientists hope to learn how these cells help bones sense and respond to mechanical use, and how hormones might regulate this tightly coordinated process.

Bones bend under everyday use by microscopic amounts that scientists measure in units called microstrains. It is thought that bones regulate their mass so that there is a constant degree of bending under the strain of normal use, says Robert Recker, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Hard Tissue Research, Creighton University School of Medicine.

If a bone sense strain beyond this optimal degree of bending, it responds by building more bone, Recker says. Likewise, if a bone senses it is not bending enough, it tears