Bone histology was quantitated in 10 osteoporotic patients aged between 17 and 51 years and in six healthy subjects aged between 23 and 43 years. The osteoporosis was of varying aetiology and was clinically stable. All patients were given tetracycline before biopsy and double tetracycline labelling was used in seven patients. Bone forming and resorbing surfaces were defined by the presence of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, respectively, which were identified by histochemical techniques. The associations between bone forming and resorbing surfaces were similar in patients and controls, though the range of values was wider in the patients than in the controls. Mineral apposition rate was normal in the osteoporotic patients, but there was a reduction in mineralising (tetracycline) surface, whether related to osteoid surface or to osteoblast surface. This did not indicate osteomalacia as the directly and indirectly measured mineralisation lag times were normal. The osteoid seams were thinner in osteoporotic patients than in controls. The data suggest that osteoclast and osteoblast numbers were normal in this group of osteoporotic patients but that the metabolic activity of osteoblasts was impaired.
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