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The Utah paradigm of skeletal physiology: an overview of its insights for bone, cartilage and collagenous tissue organs


In a 1960 paradigm of skeletal physiology, effector cells (chondroblasts, fibroblasts, osteoblasts, osteoclasts, etc.) regulated by nonmechanical agents wholly determined the architecture, strength, and health of bones, joints, fascia, ligaments, and tendons. Biomechanical and tissue-level phenomena had no roles in that paradigm. Subsequent studies and evidence slowly revealed skeletal tissue-level mechanisms and their functions, including biomechanical ones, as well as "game rules" that seem to govern them. That slow discovery process found that effector cells are only parts of tissue-level mechanisms, as kidney cells are only parts of nephrons and wheels are only parts of cars. Normally all those things help to determine skeletal architecture, strength, and health, and adding them to the 1960 paradigm led to the still-evolving Utah paradigm of skeletal physiology that concerns, in part, how load-bearing skeletal organs adapt to the voluntary mechanical loads on them. That caused controversies this article does not try to resolve; instead, it describes some issues they concern. In that regard, controversy can depend on how one assesses the relevance of facts to a problem more than on their accuracy. If a paradigm added new facts to a former one and the new one's advocates viewed all those facts as relevant, but the former's advocates questioned the relevance of some of the new facts, their views about a problem could differ even though each view depended on accurate facts. Readers would make their own judgments about the bearing of those ideas on this article's content.

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Received: October 5, 1999 / Accepted: January 13, 2000

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Frost, H. The Utah paradigm of skeletal physiology: an overview of its insights for bone, cartilage and collagenous tissue organs. J Bone Miner Metab 18, 305–316 (2000).

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  • Key words Utah paradigm
  • Bone
  • Joint
  • Ligament
  • Biomechanics
  • Osteoporosis