Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Our bones become more fragile as we age. Women generally begin to experience a change in bone strength with menopause as men see a change with andropause (men’s menopause). New research published in PLoS ONE and conducted by scientists at Queen Mary, University of London offers an explanation for why skull bone (bearing no weight) remains strong while arm and leg bone becomes weak and vulnerable when not maintained by weight bearing exercise. Researchers believe that these new findings could lead to new ways to treat or prevent osteoporosis.
“People who develop osteoporosis have fragile bones which are prone to breaking. The condition becomes more common as we age, especially in post-menopausal women when levels of estrogen fall dramatically. In the over 50s it affects half of all women and a fifth of all men.” In an effort to understand why the skull bones are resistant to bone thinning as they age, even in post-menopausal women, researchers looked in detail at rat bone cells from the skull and compared them with cells from limb bone. “They found differences between the appearance of the cells and how they behaved in the lab. They also noticed that treating the cells with estrogen had a far greater effect on the cells from the limb bone.” They believe that these differences are established at a very early life stage, probably when the bones are still forming in the womb.
When examining the genetic differences of the two types of bone cells, they found that 4% of the genome was showing different levels of activity in the two types of bone cell. "Now we understand this phenomenon better, we also understand osteoporosis better. And this has opened up many new lines of research into how the disease could be treated or even prevented."