A leading charity has awarded Aberdeen scientists £780,000 to study the behaviour of bone cells.
The University of Aberdeen team hope the Arthritis Research Campaign-funded work will lead to a better understanding of the molecules that control the activity of bone cells, which could lead to new ways of treating or preventing diseases of the skeleton.
Researchers will spend five years studying small proteins called small GTPases, which are essential for controlling how all cells in the body function and survive.
Professor Mike Rogers, who is leading the research along with colleagues Professor Richard Aspden, Dr Miep Helfrich and Dr Fraser Coxon, explained: " 'Bone-destroying' and 'bone-building cells' work constantly in our bodies, repairing day-to-day damage in the skeleton.
"In diseases such as osteoporosis, the bone-destroying cells take over and the bone-replacing cells can't keep up.
"A few years ago we discovered that most commonly-used anti-osteoporosis drugs work by interfering with small GTPase proteins, so we know that these proteins must be important but we don't really know much about what they do specifically in bone cells.
"Small GTPase proteins are very important for controlling the shape, movement and function of cells, so these proteins may also play a key role when bone-forming cells behave abnormally, for example in osteoarthritis.
"By understanding what these proteins do in the skeleton we may be able to find new ways of treating or preventing common bone diseases that affect millions of people in the UK."
A spokeswoman for the Arthritis Research Campaign, which currently pumps £2m of funding into research in the city, added: "Aberdeen is a major centre for research into bone diseases in the UK, and is leading the way in developing new and improving existing treatments for patients with osteoporosis and other bone diseases."