Forensic anthropologist Bruce Wheatley, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, can tell quite a lot from bones. From age to facts about a person’s lifestyle and culture, there’s no doubt that bones are much more than just part of a skeletal structure. When it comes to the science behind bones, however, there are a number of new and exciting scientific advances (and discoveries) to be aware of. From the future of medicine to how bones worked 400 million years ago, here are just three fun facts that are definitely worth learning about.
Bones… and batteries?
Believe it or not, bones are made of living tissue, which is what allows them to grow and repair themselves throughout your life — it’s what allows a bone to heal in the event that you break one. However, according to one study, the bones of prehistoric fish had quite an interesting function about 400 million years ago. The study, found in the journal Science Advances, suggests that the first bones with living cells evolved around that time, and functioned as what can only be described as a battery. Essentially, due to the bones being able to readily supply the fish with the necessary minerals to nourish muscles that were needed to swim, their bones’ unique function allowed them to swim much greater distances.
Osteoporosis and the future of treatment
Osteoporosis is a common bone disease, which occurs when the body begins to lose too much bone and/or make too little bone. While there are a number of different treatments available, including medications and lifestyle adjustments through diet and exercise, in order to manage the disease and the pain that often accompanies it, there may be a promising future: anabolic therapy. According to research published in Expert Opinion on Emerging Drugs, osteoanabolic therapy can actually restore the bones’ microarchitecture — making it a game changer when it comes to providing hope for a potential new treatment in the future. Anabolic therapies that include SARMs, or selective androgen receptor modulators, are one path being explored, for instance, because SARMs have been found to slow osteoporosis and protect the bone.
Growing bone tissue from stem cells
Growing tissue from stem cells isn’t exactly a new concept, but researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology and Radboud University Medical Center have managed to grow a lifelike piece of bone tissue from human stem cells. Being the first organoid of bone, this scientific feat allows for a greater understanding of early stage bone formation, and is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of coming closer to the future of what’s been called “personalized” medicine. For example, should someone need medication, artificial bone tissue grown from a patient’s stem cells would allow doctors to test out different drugs in order to find the best one.
While bones make up a large part of our being, many may not give a second thought to the science behind bones. From advances in stem cell research and even a potential osteoporosis treatment — not to mention the wild history seen in prehistoric fish — there’s no doubt that bones are a lot more interesting than you might think.
Categories: Geeks and Nerds Stuff