Harvard Health Letter

Bone drugs may harm what they're supposed to protect

The bisphosphonate drugs have been linked to death of bone tissue.

Bones may seem solid, the sturdy frame that supports our soft and spongy flesh and insides. But at the cellular level, bone is in constant flux. Cells called osteoclasts chomp away at it, discarding the proteins and minerals they can't use into the bloodstream. (Bone's loss is the body's gain — those proteins and minerals get used elsewhere.) Osteoblasts are the constructive counterforce — think b for builder — the busy cellular masons that work to fill the voids left by osteoclasts.

When we're young, 'clast versus 'blast comes out pretty even, and our bones benefit from the standoff because they are being perpetually remodeled and rejuvenated. But with age, the osteoblasts flag and the osteoclasts gain the upper hand. The result is thinner, therefore weaker, bones that are more likely to break when we fall or have some other mishap.

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