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Bone Roundup

January 15, 2010

Scientists unravel genetic clues that may explain why most of our bones lose density over time, but our skulls do not.

Transcript

A bone-headed discovery. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Weight bearing exercise thickens bones, which is why doctors urge us to lift weights and go power-walking. But scientists at the University of London are focusing on an exception to the rule: the skull. It’s a bone with few muscles attached to it, yet it stays thick even in old age. The scientists compared bone-forming cells in the skull to ones taken from limb bones and found 1236 genetic differences between the two. They eventually hope to gain insights into how to coax regular bone cells into behaving more like those in the skull, keeping bones thick and healthy, even in old age.

In other bone related news, an international team of scientists have created bioglass nanofibers—fine threads of materials that can act as a substrate for bone growth. The threads can be used to heal damaged bone that can’t heal naturally.
I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.