A degradation fragment of type X collagen is a real-time marker for bone growth velocity
Despite its importance as a key parameter of child health and development, growth velocity is difficult to determine in real time because skeletal growth is slow and clinical tools to accurately detect very small increments of growth do not exist. We report discovery of a marker for skeletal growth in infants and children. The intact trimeric noncollagenous 1 (NC1) domain of type X collagen, the marker we designated as CXM for Collagen X Marker, is a degradation by-product of endochondral ossification that is released into the circulation in proportion to overall growth plate activity. This marker corresponds to the rate of linear bone growth at time of measurement. Serum concentrations of CXM plotted against age show a pattern similar to well-established height growth velocity curves and correlate with height growth velocity calculated from incremental height measurements in this study. The CXM marker is stable once collected and can be accurately assayed in serum, plasma, and dried blood spots. CXM testing may be useful for monitoring growth in the pediatric population, especially responses of infants and children with genetic and acquired growth disorders to interventions that target the underlying growth disturbances. The utility of CXM may potentially extend to managing other conditions such as fracture healing, scoliosis, arthritis, or cancer.