New treatment for osteoporosis?

Comparison of normal bone (left) with osteoporosis (Image from Comparison of normal bone (left) with osteoporosis (Image from


A recent review published by Dr. Graziana Colaianni (University of Bari, Italy) and colleagues in the American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, has summarized recent research on the role of the hormone oxytocin in the regulation of bone mass.

Bone remodeling and rebuilding are constantly occurring in our bodies. Osteoporosis is a condition that develops when the process of building new bone does not keep up with the process of breaking down "old" bone tissue. This causes the bones to become very weak and prone to fractures. This new research sheds light on how the hormone oxytocin, previously only associated with breastfeeding and regulating contractions during childbirth, is now known to also regulate the formation of new bone tissue.

Oxytocin can bind to receptors on both the bone building cells (osteoblasts) as well as the cells that break down bone (osteoclasts). Studies have shown that mice with low oxytocin or low receptor numbers for oxytocin have impaired formation of new bone. Researchers are therefore exploring the use of oxytocin as a treatment for osteoporosis resulting from dysfunctional osteoblasts. Considering the other roles oxytocin plays in the body (such as those listed above in addition to energy regulation), it will be interesting to see whether this will be a feasible mechanism to treat osteoporosis without adverse side effects.

In previous posts, I mentioned how some hibernating animals are resistant to osteoporosis. This makes me wonder whether oxytocin plays a role in their resistance to osteoporosis as well...


Colaianni G, Sun L, Zaidi M, Zallone A. Oxytocin and Bone. American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 307: R970-R977, 2014. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00040.2014

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This is very interesting! Oxytocin is known to play a key role in certain behaviors such as anxiety, social recognition, sexual desires, and maternal behavior. The hormone also has reproductive functions, particularly the onset of labor in mammals. This newfound connection to bone mass is somewhat unexpected as none of the known functions of oxytocin have any direct connection to bone mass. I am quite interested to see if it serves a viable means to prevent osteoporosis. In recent news, researchers have found osteoporosis, a historically female condition, to also be linked to males. Maybe oxytocin will have different effects depending on gender as well.…

Typically, I thought that oxytocin was used when mother give birth. It's kind of interesting how oxytocin is now seen impacting other parts of the human anatomy other than inducing contractions. Some researchers think that hormones such as estrogen, that help regulate oxytocin are also involved. An experiment was done, and it was shown that postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, had low levels of oxytocin compared to postmenopausal women without osteoporosis, while all other biological aspects were virtually identical.
For further research on this experiment check out this link!…

By Simran Ghooi (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

Well, would love to see this treatment on sites like . That would be a great benefit for people

The impact that it could have on postmenopausal women suffering from osteoporosis is astonishing. If oxytocin could be used supplementary to other treatments such as calcium supplements, osteoporosis could be managed and the effect thereof reduced drastically.

By Imre Laubscher… (not verified) on 08 Apr 2015 #permalink