Exercise can produce healthy chatter between bone, fat and pancreatic cells

September 19, 2011, Georgia Health Sciences University
Dr. Norman Pollock of Georgia Health Sciences University has evidence of crosstalk between bone, fat and pancreatic cells in humans. Credit: Phil Jones/GHSU photographer

Cells in bone, fat and the pancreas appear to be talking to each other and one thing they likely are saying is, "Get moving."

A small study of obese children enrolled in after-school showed 12 weeks of resulted in stronger bones, improved insulin sensitivity (reduced ) and less of the most-deadly belly, or visceral, , Georgia Health Sciences University researchers report.

It also indicated that blood levels of the hormone osteocalcin, made by bone-producing osteoblasts, might be a good indicator of how things are going in all three areas, said Dr. Norman Pollock, bone biologist at GHSU's Georgia Prevention Institute.

Pollock's finding is some of the earliest human evidence of this crosstalk among the divergent cell types. Dr. Gerard Karsenty, Chairman of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center, provided the first evidence of their conversation in animals. In those studies, animals receiving osteocalcin experienced improved insulin sensitivity, less belly fat and denser bones. Osteocalcin levels have primarily been associated with bone growth.

The work earned Pollock a 2011 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Young Investigator Award. He is presenting the finding during the society's annual September meeting in San Diego.

There have been pieces of evidence of this communication in humans: people with diabetes get a lot of bone fractures; those with more visceral fat are at risk for diabetes; and have insulin receptors. Ask Pollock why a bone cell would have an and he says it's a question that many are trying to answer with studies such as this one.

"The idea is that bones can possibly sense environmental stimuli such as being physically active or sedentary and dictate energy regulation accordingly," he said. The reality is bones get bigger and stronger with exercise and they appear to be sharing the good news. "When osteocalcin is released in your blood, that hormone is talking back to the adipocytes, the that store fat, and the pancreatic cells that release insulin to improve energy metabolism." Bone researchers like Pollock have previously believed bones were just listening.

His study looked at children who were inactive as well as those who exercised 20 or 40 minutes daily. Osteocalcin levels were measured at the start and finish of the 12-week period in addition to standard assessments such as a glucose tolerance test for insulin sensitivity. They found a consistent dose-response so that the children who exercised the most experienced the most bone formation, improved and reduced visceral and total body fat.

Pollock notes that and fat cells do have a common ancestry: they are both derived from mesenchymal stem cells. "It's possible that children's early lifestyle habits and experiences may induce alterations in body composition and predispose them to a lifetime of obesity," he said. "As parents, we must ensure that our children balance out their screen time with enjoyable physical activity."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

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.