Brian Hall

Department of Biology, Dalhojusie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4J1

The topic of this symposium is 'The molecular basis of skeletogenesis'. As we will be hearing a lot about molecules, I thought I should begin by giving a brief overview of the skeleton as a whole. I'll begin by quoting from the proposal that initiated this symposium (interspersing the quotes with my own commentary), put together by Adam Wilkins, in which he stated that, 'Our aim is to bring about a cross-fertilization of ideas between human molecular genetics, developmental biology, tissue biology and the biochemistry of cell signalling pathways, in order to create new insights into the mechanisms of normal and abnormal skeletogenesis.' This is a broad and ambitious aim. 'These areas are only just beginning to be investigated in ways that integrate tissue biology with molecular genetics. The main focus of the meeting is on the molecular control of differentiation. Skeletal patterning is altered by mutations affecting differentiation. [I suspect the first paper will tell us that control of patterning is quite distinct from differentiation.] We have left this aspect to emerge in an integrated manner within the differentiation-based studies.' There may be some discussion here about whether we can actually leave patterning and morphogenesis to emerge from studies on differentiation. 'Remodelling is secondary to differentiation, but there are a number of osteoclast-related developmental disorders, and it is also appropriate to include this topic.'

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