Osteopetrosis, literally "stone bone", also known as marble bone disease and Albers-Schönberg disease, is an extremely rare inheriteddisorder whereby the bones harden, becoming denser, in contrast to more prevalent conditions like osteoporosis, in which the bones become less dense and more brittle, or osteomalacia, in which the bones soften. Osteopetrosis can cause bones to dissolve and break.
It can cause osteosclerosis. The cause of the disease is understood to be malfunctioning osteoclasts. Radiological findings will show a bone-in-bone appearance.
Normal bone growth is achieved by a balance between bone formation by osteoblasts and bone resorption (breakdown of bone matrix) by osteoclasts. In osteopetrosis, the number of osteoclasts may be reduced, normal, or increased. Most importantly, osteoclast dysfunction mediates the pathogenesis of this disease.
Osteopetrosis is caused by underlying mutations that interfere with the acidification of the osteoclast resorption pit, for example due to a deficiency of the carbonic anhydrase enzyme encoded by the CA2 gene. Carbonic anhydrase is required by osteoclasts for proton production. Without this enzyme hydrogen ion pumping is inhibited and bone resorption by osteoclasts is defective, as an acidic environment is needed to dissociate calcium hydroxyapatite from the bone matrix. As bone resorption fails while bone formation continues, excessive bone is formed.
Worldwide, there is 1 affected newborn out of every 20,000 to 250,000, but the odds are greater in the Russian region of Mari El (1 of every 14,000 newborns) and much greater in Chuvashia (1 of every 3,500—4,000 newborns) due to genetic features of the Mari people and Chuvash people, respectively.