Low-Level Mechanical Signaling to Stimulate Bone Growth

Aditi Kaveti ’23

Figure 1: A T-score of -2.5 or below is characterized as having osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by the reduction of bone quality and low bone mineral density (BMD). Bone resorption is the process by which osteoclasts break down bone tissue and release minerals, resulting  in a transfer of calcium from bone tissue to blood. When excessive resorption occurs, bones weaken and become brittle, which may eventually develop into osteoporosis. Bone health can be measured by a bone mineral density test. The results are compared to a standard score of a healthy young adult. A  final T-score is determined, which indicates the health of the bone.

Past research has found ways of reversing osteoporosis in the elderly, as well as using early pharmacological interventions to prevent the disease from manifesting. However, there are complications that may arise due to the prolonged use of medicated treatment. For example, antiresorptive medications that inhibit the process of bone turnover are not practical as a long term treatment because they may have damaging effects on bone quality and viability.

In a study done in part by Dr. Stefan Judex, the interim chair director of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University, it was found that short periods of low-level mechanical signals enhanced the anabolic growth of bone tissue and bone and muscle mass in the weight-bearing skeleton of young adult females with low BMD. Researchers followed 48 young women with low BMD and a history of at least one skeletal fracture for a period of 12 months. Half of the subjects underwent brief low-level whole body vibration every day, while the other half were treated as controls. The low-level mechanical signals were delivered through a small platform that the subjects were instructed to stand on. CT scans taken at baseline and at the end of the study were compared to determine changes in muscle and bone mass. Researchers determined that this type of intervention in young women could prevent the development of osteoporosis later in life.

Works Cited:

  1. V. Gilsanz, et al., Low-level, high-frequency mechanical signals enhance musculoskeletal development of young women with low BMD. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 21, 1464–1474 (2006). doi: 10.1359/jbmr.0606122. 
  2. Image retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/Osteoporosis_Locations.png

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