An Overview of The Skeleton as an Endocrine Organ

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Endocrine system in human body is a system of glands (endocrine glands).  These endocrine glands (pituitary, thyroid and adrenalin) secrete hormones.  These hormones are responsible for regulating various functions of the human body.  Some other organs like kidney, liver and heart have secondary endocrine functions.  

General perception is that skeleton is just an inert supporting structure, which is made up of bones.  But research studies have shown that human skeleton is also an endocrine organ.  Research was conducted by Gerard Karsenty and his team.  Gerard Karsenty, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center in New York is an expert in this area.  Research report was published in Cell website.  This research was supported by the National Institute of Health, the American Diabetes Association, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  

Karsenty and his team had proved earlier that leptin, a hormone released by fat cells, controlled bone mass.  After this research, they hypothesized that if fat cells were influencing bones, bones should also be influencing fat cells.  The team set out to find molecules in bone-producing osteoblast cells that could influence human body’s metabolism.  To their delight they found a hormone called osteocalcin, released by osteoblast cells.  

Research scientists observed that this hormone played a major role in increasing the number of insulin producing cells and in reducing stores of fat.  Researchers were astonished when they found that osteocalcin directed the pancreas’ beta cells – which produces the human body’s supply of insulin – to produce more insulin.  They also observed that this hormone directed fat cells to release a hormone called adiponectin, which improved insulin sensitivity.  It was concluded that osteocalcin played a major role in increasing insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity.  This research clearly proved that an increase in osteocalcin activity prevents the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity in mice.  

Gerard Karsenty points out to the need of further research in this area.  The research was conducted on mice.  Bone metabolism is different in mice and human beings.  But this landmark discovery has brought a new hope for people suffering from type 2 diabetes.  It may also help in preventing type 2 diabetes in the future.  


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