The majority of patients with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) have mutations in the COL1A1 or COL1A2 gene, which has consequences for the composition of the bone matrix and bone architecture. The mutations result in overmodified collagen molecules, thinner collagen fibres and hypermineralization of bone tissue at a bone matrix level. Trabecular bone in OI is characterized by a lower trabecular number and connectivity as well as a lower trabecular thickness and volumetric bone mass. Cortical bone shows a decreased cortical thickness with less mechanical anisotropy and an increased pore percentage as a result of increased osteocyte lacunae and vascular porosity.
Most OI patients have mutations at different locations in the COL1 gene. Disease severity in OI is probably partly determined by the nature of the primary collagen defect and its location with respect to the C-terminus of the collagen protein. The overall bone biomechanics result in a relatively weak and brittle structure. Since this is a result of all of the above-mentioned factors as well as their interactions, there is - considerable variation between patients, and accurate prediction on bone strength in the individual patient with OI is difficult.
Current treatment of OI focuses on adequate vitamin-D levels and interventions in the bone turnover cycle with bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates increase bone mineral density, but the evidence on improvement of clinical status remains limited. Effects of newer drugs such as antibodies against RANKL and sclerostin are currently under investigation.
This paper was written under the guidance of the Study Group Genetics and Metabolic Diseases of the European Paediatric Orthopaedic Society.