Building healthy bones takes guts

February 14, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—In what could be an early step toward new treatments for people with osteoporosis, scientists at Michigan State University report that a natural probiotic supplement can help male mice produce healthier bones.

Interestingly, the same can't be said for female mice, the researchers report in the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

"We know that inflammation in the gut can cause , though it's unclear exactly why," said lead author Laura McCabe, a professor in MSU's departments of Physiology and Radiology. "The neat thing we found is that a probiotic can enhance bone density."

are microorganisms that can help balance the immune system. For the study, the researchers fed the mice Lactobacillus reuteri, a probiotic known to reduce inflammation, a sometimes harmful effect of the body's immune response to infection.

"Through food fermentation, we've been eating bacteria that we classify as probiotics for thousands of years," said co-author Robert Britton, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and . "There's evidence that this as a species has co-evolved with humans. It's indigenous to our intestinal tracts and is something that, if missing, might cause problems."

In the study, the male mice showed a significant increase in bone density after four weeks of treatment. There was no such effect when the researchers repeated the experiment with female mice, an anomaly they're now investigating.

By 2020, half of all Americans over 50 are expected to have or osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. About one in two women and one in four men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Drugs to prevent bone loss in osteoporosis patients are already in wide use, but over the long term they can disrupt the natural remodeling of and could potentially have negative side effects that include unusual and joint and muscle pain.

McCabe and Britton are quick to point out that this line of research is in its early stages and that results in mice don't always translate to humans. But they're hopeful the new study could point the way toward osteoporosis drugs that aren't saddled with such side effects, especially for people who lose from an early age because of another chronic condition.

"People tend to think of osteoporosis as just affecting postmenopausal women, but what they don't realize is that it can occur with other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and Type 1 diabetes," she said. "You don't want to put your child on medications that reduce bone remodeling for the rest of their life, so something natural could be useful for long-term treatment of bone loss that begins at childhood."

Explore further: The Medical Minute: Osteoporosis

Related Stories

The Medical Minute: Osteoporosis

May 26, 2010

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become thin. As a result, the bones are more likely to break. Bones most often affected are in the hip, spine and wrist, but the ribs and other bones also are at risk.

Taking a break from osteoporosis drugs can protect bones

November 18, 2010

Taking time off from certain osteoporosis drugs may be beneficial to bone health, according to a study conducted at Loyola University Health System. Researchers found that bone density remained stable for three years in patients ...

New study shows vitamin C prevents bone loss in animal models

October 9, 2012

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have shown for the first time in an animal model that vitamin C actively protects against osteoporosis, a disease affecting large numbers of elderly women and men in which bones ...

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.