The brain has an important role in the maintenance of bone density, says a study that holds promise for the treatment of osteoporosis.
Itai Bab of the Bone Laboratory and other researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem experimented with genetically engineered laboratory mice whose ability to react to interleukin 1, a protein, has been known for many years, reports science portal EurekAlert.
The researchers were able to demonstrate that the proper loss or generation balance in bone tissue is regulated by the level of activity of interleukin 1 in the brain. A normal, optimal level of interleukin 1 activity in the brain is required to protect bone density by impeding bone tissue breakdown, they say.
"The connection between the brain and the bone structure is a new area of research about which very little is known," said Prof Bab. "These new findings regarding the action of interleukin 1 on the breakdown of bone tissue indicate a complex neural system controlling bone structure, he said.
Osteoporosis is the most widespread degenerative disease in the Western world. It is characterised by the loss of bone density and consequent structural weakening of the skeleton.
Osteoporosis sufferers are highly susceptible to fractures, in some cases leading to severe physical disability and complications that can even end in death.
In humans and other vertebrates, one-tenth of the bone tissue is involved in an "exchange" process of continuous bone loss and generation. In adult humans and other mammals, this process is balanced; that is, the amount of bone tissue that is generated is equal to that which is lost, thus preserving bone density.
With age, this balance is disrupted, and the amount of bone tissue that is lost is greater than that which is created, with the result that bone density declines and bone structure is impaired.
The results of this research, involving a study of the activity of the protein interleukin 1 in the brain, comprise not only a breakthrough in understanding the regulation of bone density by the brain but also hold promise for the development of future treatment for osteoporosis, the researchers say.