We administered high doses of calcitriol (up to 32 μg per day) to an infant with malignant osteopetrosis, in an attempt to stimulate bone resorption. The patient was placed on a low-calcium diet to prevent hypercalcemia. Measures of bone turnover increased during calcitriol therapy; hydroxyproline excretion rose from 140 to 1358 μg per milligram of creatinine per 24 hours, with parallel increases in the ratio of calcium to creatinine in the urine, urinary gamma-carboxyglutamic acid, serum osteocalcin, and serum alkaline phosphatase. A pretreatment bone-biopsy specimen contained no osteoclasts with ruffled borders, a feature of active osteoclasts. After 11 days of calcitriol, ruffled borders were noted. After three months, numerous osteoclasts with ruffled borders and associated bony disruption were evident. Before therapy, the patient's monocytes were incapable of in vitro bone resorption, but after calcitriol, their resorptive capacity was increased to 3.3 times control levels. These data demonstrate that calcitriol increased bone mineral and matrix turnover in our patient. However, during the three months of calcitriol therapy there was only slight clinical improvement in her severe disease. Early and sustained treatment with calcitriol may be useful in osteopetrosis. (N Engl J Med 1984; 310:409–15.).
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