Effects of alendronate and pamidronate on cultured rat metatarsal bones: Failure to prevent dexamethasone-induced growth retardation

Terhi J. Heino, Andrei S. Chagin, Masaharu Takigawa, Lars Sävendahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Bisphosphonates are widely used anti-resorptive drugs in the adult population. In children, their use has mainly been limited to patients with osteogenesis imperfecta. However, the powerful effects of bisphosphonates on bone turnover have raised concern about their long-term effects on the growing skeleton. We aimed to study the effects of two commonly used bisphosphonates, alendronate (Aln) and pamidronate (Pam) on normal bone growth as well as their potential to prevent glucocorticoid-induced growth retardation. Effects on bone growth were studied in fetal rat metatarsal bones (day E20) that were cultured for 5-47 days and measured every 2-7 days. Cellular mechanisms were investigated in metatarsal bones and also in the human chondrocytic cell line HCS-2/8. Chondrocyte viability (WST-1), proliferation (BrdU incorporation), differentiation (collagen type X immunohistochemistry) and apoptosis (TUNEL and Cell Death ELISA) were determined. At a clinically relevant concentration of bisphosphonates (1 μM), metatarsal bone growth was stimulated by both Aln (p < 0.001 for length and p < 0.05 for width) and Pam (p < 0.05 for both length and width) from day 19 of culture. The growth-stimulatory effect was associated with increased chondrocyte proliferation (+ 21% with Aln and + 24% with Pam), while cell differentiation and apoptosis were not affected. Despite the finding that both Aln and Pam (1 μM) rescued HCS-2/8 cells from undergoing dexamethasone-induced apoptosis, neither of them was able to prevent dexamethasone-induced growth retardation of fetal rat metatarsal bones. Aln and Pam have the capacity to stimulate the growth of cultured fetal rat metatarsal bones; an effect associated with increased proliferation of growth plate chondrocytes. Our experimental data suggest that bisphosphonates are ineffective in preventing glucocorticoid-induced growth retardation. Nevertheless, based on our in vitro data, both Aln and Pam appear safe to use in growing children, at least with regard to their effects on linear bone growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-709
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008


  • Bisphosphonates
  • Bone growth
  • Chondrocytes
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Proliferation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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