How Bone Cells Respond to Forces - Repairing and Preventing Future Injuries

Author: Caroline Phaneuf, B.A., M.A.
Published: 2018/12/14 - Updated: 2023/09/16
Publication Type: Research Paper - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: New research from Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada and McGill University Montreal shows how bone cells repair themselves, giving important clues as to how to improve future care. This research, which includes discoveries that challenge the current thinking on the matter, will potentially help patients with a variety of bone issues, including many children and teens. The research, while still at a fundamental stage, will not only allow scientists and clinical specialists to understand what types of exercises could help their patients with bone diseases, but also when, how often and for how long exercises should be performed.

Main Digest

Researchers from Shriners Hospitals for ChildrenĀ® - Canada, affiliated with McGill University, have discovered that bone cells experience injuries and rapidly repair themselves after all kinds of mechanical stresses - from pressure placed on bones during simple walking, to extreme forces experienced during intense exercise. The teams' first study was published this fall in the open-access journal eLife and their follow-up study, that confirms their conclusions and makes further discoveries, has just been published in the November edition of the Journal of Cell Science.

"Our first research project shows that bone cells adapt to physical forces, such as encountered during exercise, and that the more the bone cells suffer from micro-injuries, the more quickly they repair themselves," explains senior author Svetlana Komarova, PhD, from Shriners Hospitals for Children - Canada's Research Centre and Associate Professor at McGill University.

This research, which includes discoveries that challenge the current thinking on the matter, will potentially help patients with a variety of bone issues, including many children and teens treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children. The study may also provide a scientific basis for new treatments for many elderly people with bone degeneration and even astronauts, who also suffer from bone loss after experiencing micro-gravity in space.

"The research shows how adaptive our bodies really are," says Dr. Komarova. "The body has its own regulatory system - even for minor bone repair. If we better understand how that works, we can eventually reduce our dependency on drugs to repair any damage."

The research, while still at a fundamental stage, will not only allow scientists and clinical specialists to understand what types of exercises could help their patients with bone diseases, but also when, how often and for how long exercises should be performed. It could, therefore, help clinicians more specifically prescribe certain exercise or movement regimens to patients with bone issues.

First Research Project on the Subject

Gravitational and muscle forces act on the skeleton during any physical activity resulting in a complex combination of forces, strains and pressures that can break down bone cells. Bone cells translate these mechanical stresses into a complex chain of molecular events that allow bones to adapt and repair. Increases in cell levels of calcium and the release of an important molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), considered by biologists to be the energy fuel of life, are known to be early events following mechanical stress of bone cells, but exactly how mechanical forces lead to ATP release remained unresolved.

"The goal of our study was to examine the exact mechanism of how bone cells adapt and repair themselves after mechanical stimulation. To do that, we needed to study ATP release, what caused it and what was its consequence," explains lead author Nicholas Mikolajewicz, PhD student at McGill University and Shriners Hospitals for Children - Canada.

"It had previously been proposed that ATP comes from vesicles - tiny membrane sacs within the cell," continues Mr. Mikolajewicz. "We were surprised to find, following ATP release using fluorescent dyes, that the greater the number of vesicles released, the less ATP was released. This proved that previous assumptions were incorrect."

The team concluded that mechanical stress on bone cells causes ATP to be released through micro-injuries in the cell membrane. They found that an influx of calcium, which in turn switches on a molecule called protein kinase C (PKC), controls vesicles that repair the membrane of the bone cell, stopping the leakage of - and therefore preserving - ATP.

"We also established that the more that bone cells are subjected to this repair mechanism, the more rapidly the repair took place," concludes Dr. Komarova.

Second Research Project - Confirming Conclusions & Discovering More

In the second phase of their research, Dr. Komarova and colleagues, including lead author Nicholas Mikolajewicz, set out to perform a meta-analysis of all studies done to date on mechanically stimulated ATP release. For this large statistical analysis, about 250 papers published on the topic were analysed. The researchers looked at their approach to ATP release measurements in order to establish the consensus.

The research team discovered that when mechanical forces are applied to mammalian cells (animal or human cells), about 24 million molecules of ATP are released from each cell, quantifying the molecular release for the first time. Interestingly, they found that when different types of forces (pressures, strains) were applied to the cells, ATP was released through different routes. Importantly, their analysis revealed that ATP release acts differently in people depending on their disease state. They found that mechanically-stimulated ATP release is higher in people showing inflammation and injury, but it is lower in people with hereditary and metabolic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and type II diabetes.

"We also found that ATP release upon mechanical stimulation does not only happen within bones, but within nearly every cell of the body," explains Dr. Komarova.

This discovery will therefore have an impact on other medical research studies of mechanically-stimulated ATP release in different cell types.

Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed publication pertaining to our Bones and Joints section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "How Bone Cells Respond to Forces - Repairing and Preventing Future Injuries" was originally written by Caroline Phaneuf, B.A., M.A. , and submitted for publishing on 2018/12/14 (Edit Update: 2023/09/16). Should you require further information or clarification, Caroline Phaneuf, B.A., M.A. can be contacted at carolinephaneuf.com. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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