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J Bone Miner Res. 2016 Sep;31(9):1638-46. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2887. Epub 2016 Jul 26.

Links Between the Microbiome and Bone.

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Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA.


The human microbiome has been shown to influence a number of chronic conditions associated with impaired bone mass and bone quality, including obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. The connection between the microbiome and bone health, however, has not been well studied. The few studies available demonstrate that the microbiome can have a large effect on bone remodeling and bone mass. The gut microbiome is the largest reservoir of microbial organisms in the body and consists of more than a thousand different species interacting with one another in a stable, dynamic equilibrium. How the microbiome can affect organs distant from the gut is not well understood but is believed to occur through regulation of nutrition, regulation of the immune system, and/or translocation of bacterial products across the gut endothelial barrier. Here we review each of these mechanisms and discuss their potential effect on bone remodeling and bone mass. We discuss how preclinical studies of bone-microbiome interactions are challenging because the microbiome is sensitive to genetic background, housing environment, and vendor source. Additionally, although the microbiome exhibits a robust response to external stimuli, it rapidly returns to its original steady state after a disturbance, making it difficult to sustain controlled changes in the microbiome over time periods required to detect alterations in bone remodeling, mass, or structure. Despite these challenges, an understanding of the mechanisms by which the gut microbiome affects bone has the potential to provide insights into the dissociation between fracture risk and bone mineral density in patients including those with obesity, diabetes, or inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, alteration of the gut microbiome has the potential to serve as a biomarker of bone metabolic activity as well as a target for therapies to improve bone structure and quality using pharmaceutical agents or pre- or probiotics.



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