Understanding the Complex Relationship Between Muscle and Bone

Researchers have long known that progressive loss of muscle mass and bone density is part of the natural aging process. However, little work has been done to determine how muscle tissue affects in the inner and outer layers of bone microstructure. A Mayo Clinic study examined skeletal muscle mass and bone health across the life span and discovered distinct differences in how muscle impacts the two bone layers in both men and women.

According to lead author, Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., "Our study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the highly integrated nature of skeletal muscle and bone, and it also provides new insights into potential biomarkers that reflect the health of the musculoskeletal system.”

Investigators reviewed records from a long-standing Mayo Clinic study of bone health involving 272 women and 317 men between the ages of 20 and 97. They examined the relationship between skeletal muscle mass with bone architecture and strength, using several high-resolution imaging technologies that distinguish the outer layer of bone from the inner layer.

The study findings revealed that muscle mass is associated with bone strength at particular places in the body. In women, muscle mass was strongly connected to cortical health at load-bearing locations such as the hip, lumbar spine and tibia. Researchers also discovered an association between muscle mass and the microarchitecture of trabecular bone in women’s forearms, a non-load-bearing sit, at higher risk of fracture following menopause. It was found that the higher a level of a specific circulating protein (IGFBP-2), the lower the relative muscle mass overall, they discovered.

Dr. LeBrasseur claims that, "We found IGFBP-2, which has already been linked to osteoporotic fractures in men, is a negative biomarker of muscle mass in both sexes. This finding could potentially be used to determine people who are at a particular risk for falls and associated fractures."

Understanding the topic of muscle and bone health is especially vital for the elderly. Weakened muscle tone can precede bone-breaking accidents that can result in loss of independence and even death. In terms of annual medical costs, the adverse effects of frailty can reach up to $18.5 billion.

Dr. LeBrasseur concludes, "As we develop a better understanding of the complex relationship between muscle and bone, we may find new strategies for early identification and treatment of muscle loss and bone density loss.”


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