Kamis, 01 November 2007

The Buzz on Bone and Fat

In Human Physiology 5th ed. (p. 104-105) I point out that bone growth, remodeling and repair are enhanced by weight-bearing exercise and can be stimulated by weak electrical currents. But I learned something new today - apparently it’s also known that that in several animal species including mice and sheep, just standing on a platform that vibrates at a low frequency (like a buzz) leads to bone growth. That’s interesting enough, but now scientist have demonstrated that when mice are placed on a vibrating platform for just 15 minutes a day they not only gain bone mass, they also have 27% less body fat. The work will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nov. 6, but it is already available online.

Huh? It sounds incredible - so incredible that it amazes even the scientists who did it. They caution that they don’t yet understand WHY the mice gain bone mass and have less body fat, but they have some hypotheses. One is that the low frequency vibrations may stimulate stem cells in bone to become bone cells instead of fat cells. Other scientists remain skeptical of this hypothesis, saying that perhaps the mice have less fat because they eat less or because they are doing more muscle work to maintain their posture on the platform. Certainly these are all good hypotheses that deserve to be tested.

According to a New York Times article published online on Oct. 30 (“Low Buzz May Give Mice Better Bones and Less Fat”, by Gina Kolata), a clinical trial is underway in elderly people to determine whether a buzzing platform will affect adult human bone density (and body fat) like it does in mice. Perhaps in a few years we’ll know, and a new therapy for osteoporosis will emerge.

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