Posted on: February 1st, 2022

Some current research projects are studying gut microbiota and the role it has in bone metabolism and links to the pathogenesis of osteoporosis and other bone-related issues. Research is focused on the composition of gut microbiota and how different compositions can affect bones, specifically the bone healing process in relation to osteoporosis and osteogenesis. 

What is Osteoporosis?

The Mayo clinic roughly defines osteoporosis as a condition that “causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine”

Osteoporosis has no symptoms–it is a skeletal disorder usually discovered by lower levels of bone mass in individuals who suffer a fracture in a situation where a fracture should not occur. Older people may have consistent general pain due to undiscovered osteoporosis-related acute fractures.

The cause of osteoporosis is related to an imbalance in bone resorption and bone formation, which affects bone mass. A 2015 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism noted three main mechanisms involved in the development of osteoporosis. These mechanisms include inadequate peak bone mass, excessive bone resorption, and inadequate bone formation.

What is Osteogenesis

Osteogenesis imperfecta (osteogenesis) is a group of genetic disorders that result in ‘brittle bones;’ bones that break much more easily than they should. Unlike osteoporosis, cases of osteogenesis are related to low mineral density bones. 

Osteogenesis research shows that causal gene mutations can affect all of the organs in the body to some degree. Severe cases of osteogenesis can lead to hearing loss, gastrointestinal issues like constipation or general gut pain, and respiratory failure.

How Gut Microbiota Affects Osteoporosis & Osteogenesis

Modern medical research has started taking a much closer look at the gastrointestinal system, specifically gut microbiota. Over 90% of the cells in a human body are microbes and located around the gut. Profiling the huge amount of microbiota species has proved to be an issue, but links between specific microbiota and how it affects different areas of the body are being discovered. 

One thing is clear regarding gut microbiota and osteoporosis/osteogenesis: microbiota directly influences bone health. Direct connections have been discovered between immune regulators, hormones, other molecules essential for bone health, and gut microbiota.

The gut microbiome as a whole, however, has been discovered to regulate (both directly and indirectly) metabolism, immune system functions, and molecular/cellular translocation throughout the gut. Basically, the gut microbiome influences remote tissues, which has started several new fields of research–one of which is osteomicrobiology.

Osteomicrobiology studies microbiota and the effects they have on bone health, bone repair, skeletal growth, bone & skeletal aging, and pathologic bone loss. Recent studies in the field have linked changes in gut microbiota composition to changes in bone phenotype–which may cause hormone deficiencies that can lead to bone loss.

Several recent studies of adults with osteoporosis have noted their gut microbiomes are not populated with enough ‘healthy’ bacteria, showing a lack of diversity which adversely affects overall gut health.

The Future of Gut Microbiota, Osteoporosis, and Osteogenesis

Aside from biological connections and mechanistic research, some studies are also looking at treatments for osteoporosis & osteogenesis and how they affect the gut microbiota. Research in the field of osteomicrobiology is specifically focused on how treatments & medications for osteoporosis and osteogenesis affect the gut microbiome.

Early data drawn from recent studies suggest gut microbiota should be seriously considered in developing new treatments for osteoporosis and osteogenesis. As of this writing, the FDA has not approved probiotics to treat or cure these diseases, but research evidence is piling up. As new discoveries are made, direct mechanisms may be developed, which could one day lead to treating bone conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis via promoting gut health.

Research at Biofortis

Biofortis is dedicated to protecting consumer health throughout the world by delivering a wide range of testing and consultancy services to the food, supplement, and nutrition industries. Biofortis supports this mission in two ways—through clinical trials and sensory and consumer insights testing. We specialize in clinical research targeting foods, ingredients, and dietary supplements that affect body structures, function, and overall health. Contact us with any clinical trial or scientific consulting needs.

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