In vitro mimics of bone remodeling and the vicious cycle of cancer in bone

Venkatesh Krishnan, Erwin A. Vogler, Donna M. Sosnoski, Andrea M. Mastro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Bone remodeling is a natural process that enables growth and maintenance of the skeleton. It involves the deposition of mineralized matrix by osteoblasts and resorption by osteoclasts. Several cancers that metastasize to bone negatively perturb the remodeling process through a series of interactions with osteoclasts, and osteoblasts. These interactions have been described as the "vicious cycle" of cancer metastasis in bone. Due to the inaccessibility of the skeletal tissue, it is difficult to study this system in vivo. In contrast, standard tissue culture lacks sufficient complexity. We have developed a specialized three-dimensional culture system that permits growth of a non-vascularized, multiple-cell-layer of mineralized osteoblastic tissue from pre-osteoblasts. In this study, the essential properties of bone remodeling were created in vitro by co-culturing the mineralized collagenous osteoblastic tissue with actively resorbing osteoclasts followed by reinfusion with proliferating pre-osteoblasts. Cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions were determined by confocal microscopy as well as by assays for cell specific cytokines and growth factors. Osteoclasts, differentiated in the presence of osteoblasts, led to degradation of the collagen-rich extracellular matrix. Further addition of metastatic breast cancer cells to the co-culture mimicked the vicious cycle; there was a further reduction in osteoblastic tissue thickness, an increase in osteoclastogenesis, chemotaxis of cancer cells to osteoclasts and formation of cancer cells into large colonies. The resulting model system permits detailed study of fundamental osteobiological and osteopathological processes in a manner that will enhance development of therapeutic interventions to skeletal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-462
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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