Our bones are maintained through a continuous cycle of remodeling. Specialized cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts are responsible for creating new bone and resorbing old bone, respectively.
A scientific study has shed new light on how these cells operate, revealing robust and complex layers of communication between these types of cells. Today we’ll listen in on the conversations our cells have about our bones, and we’ll consider how osteoporosis drugs disrupt that natural communication to the detriment of our bone health.
What Did The Osteoblast Say To The Osteoclast?
A study published in the journal Cells provides us with a rare look into the mechanisms by which our bone cells communicate. Researchers in New York and Massachusetts compiled and reviewed the current knowledge about how osteoblasts and osteoclasts communicate with each other.
Osteoblasts are cells that construct new bone mass. Osteoclasts are cells responsible for dissolving and resorbing old bone mass. Together they complete the cycle of bone remodeling, in which old bone is replaced by new bone.
Researchers have revealed that the impetus for the body to activate or deactivate one cell type originates in the other. Osteoblasts and osteoclasts are communicating with each other about their activity levels and about the quantity of each cell type.1
This communication occurs in a variety of ways. The study identifies eight compounds derived from osteoblasts that promote or suppress osteoclasts and seven derived from osteoblasts that influence osteoclasts. These compounds move between cells either from direct cell-to-cell contact or by secretion into the fluid surrounding the cells.
Some compounds inhibit the production of new osteoclasts or osteoblasts or conversely promote their new production. Some of them influence the survival of precursors needed for the formation of new cells, or they influence what type of cell a developing cell becomes.1
Communication between osteoblasts and osteoclasts allows them to balance the processes of bone remodeling and attain homeostasis in which healthy bone mass is maintained.
A study published in the journal Cells compiled information about the compounds released by osteoclasts and osteoblasts to communicate with each other. These compounds, released by one cell type, trigger the promotion or suppression of the other type. This helps maintain a balanced bone remodeling cycle.
Disruptions In Cellular Communication
Many of the physical changes that naturally accompany aging impact the balance of osteoblasts and osteoclasts in favor of osteoclasts. This results in bone loss, as old bone is resorbed faster than it is replaced.
Additionally, many behaviors can reinforce the changes that throw our bone remodeling process out of balance. Increases in the stress hormone cortisol and chronic inflammation, for example, have been shown to suppress osteoblasts and activate osteoclasts.2 These stressors disrupt the communication between our bone cells that would otherwise allow them to stay balanced.
Fortunately, it is possible to counteract the forces that disrupt bone remodeling at the source. The Osteoporosis Reversal Program recommends implementing beneficial changes to dietary habits, physical activity, and lifestyle in order to create the right conditions for bone remodeling.
The process of aging can create an imbalance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts, as can certain behaviors. For example, increased stress and inflammation hinder osteoblasts and increase osteoclasts. You can counteract these disruptions through changes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle, as described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Artificial Manipulation Causes Communication Breakdown
Over the past 30 years, we’ve witnessed the rise of osteoporosis drugs that take a narrow approach. Most of these drugs attempt to force a change in the number or activity of osteoclasts by introducing synthetic replicas of factors that inhibit them.
However, as research on cellular communication has shown, osteoclasts are responsible for giving instructions to osteoblasts. As a result, any change to one part of the system has a ripple effect. The researchers describe this chain of disruption caused by osteoporosis drugs in their report.
“… osteoblast–osteoclast interactions have played a powerful role in shaping the action of all currently approved drugs acting on the skeleton, including often imposing limitations on the activities of these agents. Most anti-resorptive agents inhibiting osteoclast formation and activity simultaneously suppress bone formation, whereas the activity of anabolic agents inducing bone formation is similarly tempered by simultaneously increasing bone resorption.”1
This demonstrates one of the fundamental dysfunctions of osteoporosis drugs. You can’t artificially change one part of the process without it leading to a change in the rest of the system. The result is drugs that are ineffectual and burdened with unwanted – and often harrowing – side effects.
Since osteoclasts and osteoblasts require instructions from each other to maintain healthy bone remodeling, osteoporosis drugs that force a decrease in osteoclasts also impact osteoblasts. This limits the ability of osteoporosis drugs to be useful, effective, and safe.
What This Means To You
Communication is the cornerstone of every relationship – and that goes for our bone cells too! Avoiding fractures is a goal you can pursue in many ways. One of those ways is supporting healthy communication between your osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
The recommendations in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program are designed to do exactly that – through diet, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments. One of the simplest ways to support bone cell communication is by choosing a drug-free approach to avoiding fracture.