Despite improvements in the techniques, materials, and fixation of total joint replacements, wear and its sequelae continue to be the main factors limiting the longevity and clinical success of arthroplasty. Since Charnley first recognized aseptic loosening in the early 1960s, a tremendous amount of information has been gained on the basic science of osteolysis. Tissue explant, animal, and cell culture studies have allowed development of an appreciation of the complexity of cellular interactions and chemical mediators involved in these processes. Cellular participants have been shown to include the macrophage, osteoblast, fibroblast, and osteoclast. The plethora of chemical mediators that are responsible for the cellular interactions and effects on bone primarily include PGE2, TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-6. Recent and ongoing work in the field of signaling pathways will continue to advance our understanding of the mechanisms of periprosthetic bone loss. Although initial animal studies are promising for the development of possible pharmacologic agents for the treatment and prevention of osteolysis, well controlled human trials are required.