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J Nutr. 2011 Mar;141(3):373-9. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.131193. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Dietary calcium restriction affects mesenchymal stem cell activity and bone development in neonatal pigs.

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Laboratory of Developmental Nutrition, Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.


The effects of dietary calcium (Ca) deficiency on skeletal integrity are well characterized in growing and mature mammals; however, less is known about Ca nutrition during the neonatal period. In this study, we examined the effects of neonatal Ca nutrition on bone integrity, endocrine hormones, and mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) activity. Neonatal pigs (24 ± 6 h of age) received either a Ca-adequate (1.2 g/100 g) or an ~40% Ca-deficient diet for 18 d. Ca deficiency reduced (P < 0.05) bone flexural strength and bone mineral density without major differences in plasma indicators of Ca status. There were no meaningful differences in plasma Ca, phosphate (PO(4)), parathyroid hormone, or 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol due to Ca nutrition throughout the study. Calcium deficiency also reduced (P < 0.05) the in vivo proliferation of MSC by ~50%. In vitro studies utilizing homologous sera demonstrated that MSC activity was affected (P < 0.05) by both the Ca status of the pig and the sera as well as by their interaction. The results indicate that neonatal Ca nutrition is crucial for bone integrity and suggest that early-life Ca restriction may have long-term effects on bone integrity via programming of MSC.

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