Bone is a specialized connective tissue that makes up, together with cartilage, the skeletal system. The skeleton, like every organ, has specific developmental and functional characteristics that define its identity in biologic and pathologic terms. In mammals, including humans, bone metabolism is manifested as an ongoing modeling/remodeling process whereby the osseous mineralized matrix is being continuously replaced. This renewal process has a key role in maintenance of the skeleton and in its physiologic function. Imbalanced bone remodeling often results in osteoporosis, the most common degenerative disease in developed countries. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men. The fractures caused by osteoporosis have a great impact on public, as they are often associated to increased morbidity, mortality and high economic cost.
Among the local factors, systemic hormones and central signals that regulate bone remodeling, the endocannabinoid system appears to have a substantial role. Both endocannabinoids and their receptors, CB1 and CB2, are present in bone microenvironment, and their activation/blockade has been shown to regulate bone cell activity, skeletal growth and remodeling.
In our lab we utilize chemical-, surgical-, and genetic-induced animal models for osteoporosis to test the contribution of the endocannabinoid system to the development of this disease. Moreover, we develop and characterize novel compounds to improve bone density and mass.