Monday, April 7, 2014

Much of Bone is Shock-Absorbing ‘Goo’ that stops it from Shattering

Findings reveal new insights into bone diseases like osteoporosis.
March 25, 2014 (Medical News Today)

A team of chemists from the UK has made a remarkable discovery about the structure of bone and shown that much of the mineral from which it is made comprises a viscous ‘goo-like’ fluid that is trapped between the crystals that form bone.

The goo-like fluid allows movement or slipperiness between the calcium phosphate nano-crystals so they do not shatter under pressure. This newly discovered property is what gives bone its flexibility, say the researchers who write about their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study shows that the goo-like viscous fluid is made of the chemical citrate – which is a natural by-product of cell metabolism – mixed with water. The researchers suggest their discovery may explain how osteoporosis arises and will shift current thinking about the causes of this and other bone diseases.

If the citrate goo leaks out, it fuses with the calcium phosphate crystals, creating big clumps that stick together, causing bone to lose its flexibility and become more brittle.

“Bone mineral was thought to be closely related to this substance called hydroxyapatite. But what we’ve shown is that a large part of the bone mineral – possibly as much as half of it, in fact – is made up of this goo, where citrate is binding like a gel between mineral crystals” says lead investigator Dr. Melinda Duer of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge.

Imagine two panes of glass with water in between, they stick together but can slide with respect to each other. The citrate is what keeps the plates together, without drying out and sticking to each other or flying apart.

Hopefully, this new research will move the medical community away from the use of biphosphanates like Fosamax and Boniva. Drugs like this maintain old brittle bone by preventing the body from dismantling it and subsequently rebuilding with new bone. Although this improves the density on bone density studies, the remaining bone is more prone to fracture. This is why the companies were forced to print warnings about increased hip fractures on the labels.

As bone ages and begins to loose some of it’s’ flexibility, cells called osteoclasts eat the old bone. Then other cells, called osteoblasts produce new bone to replace what was lost. This process is ongoing though out our lives. Fosamax actually prevents the osteoclasts from doing their job.

Estrogen, on the other hand, stimulates both the osteoclasts and osteoblasts, especially the later. That protective factor is very important for women. When women go through menopause and estrogen levels drop, bone loss often escalates, resulting in osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, estrogen supplementation (HRT-hormone replacement therapy) can increase the risk of cancer, especially in the sex organs. Bio-identical HRT appears to reduce that risk by using a much lower dose of estrogen.

I believe the key lies in supporting adrenal health. After menopause (or andropause), the adrenals produce our sex hormones. They produce a little estrogen and testosterone when we are young, but their role increases as they take over for the ovaries and testes.

However, most of us have taxed our adrenals extensively with the stress of modern life. They just are not capable of taking on the additional task of hormone production. Hormone levels fall too far and too fast. This results in hot flashes, mood changes, depression, loss of libido, and osteoporosis.

I will follow this research as nutritional support for osteoporosis may change radically as our knowledge grows. In the meantime, try to reduce your stress. Take some time to enjoy the little things in life. Go the beach and watch the sun rise. Read a good book. Play.

As I have noted in previous blogs, the cardinal signs of adrenal stress are poor sleep habits and low libido. If you suffer from insomnia, maintenance or onset, or your sex drive has dropped, consult a qualified nutritionist. There are several herbs that are quite effective in rebuilding adrenal function.