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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Feb;292(2):R988-96. Epub 2006 Oct 26.

Aging alters the skeletal response to disuse in the rat.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 4301 West Markham St., Slot 505, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


Disuse has been shown to cause a rapid and dramatic loss of skeletal mass and strength in the load-bearing bones of young and mature animals and humans. However, little is known about the skeletal effects of disuse in aged mammals. The present study was designed to determine whether the skeletal effects of disuse are maintained with extreme age. Fischer 344/Brown Norway male rats (6 and 32 mo old) were hindlimb suspended (HS) or housed individually for 2 wk. Trabecular volume and microarchitecture in the proximal tibia were significantly decreased by HS only in young rats. HS significantly reduced cortical bone mineral density and increased cortical porosity only in old rats by inducing new pore formation. Cortical pore diameter was also increased in old rats, regardless of loading condition. Ex vivo osteogenic and adipogenic cultures established from each group demonstrated that age and HS decreased osteoblastogenesis. Age, but not HS, decreased sensitivity to endogenous bone morphogenetic protein stimulation, as measured by treatment with exogenous Noggin. Adipocyte development increased with age, whereas HS suppressed sensitivity to peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma-induced differentiation. Serum insulin-like growth factor I levels were reduced with HS in young rats and with age in control and HS rats. These results suggest that the site of bone loss due to disuse is altered with age and that the loss of osteogenic potential with disuse in the old rats may be due to the combined effects of decreased insulin-like growth factor I levels and sensitivity, as well as diminished bone morphogenetic protein production.

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