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Daily vibration may help aging bones stay healthy

AUGUSTA, Ga. - A daily dose of whole body vibration may help reduce the usual bone density loss that occurs with age, Medical College of Georgia researchers report.

Twelve weeks of daily, 30-minute sessions in 18-month old male mice which equate to 55- to 65-year-old humans appear to forestall the expected annual loss that can result in fractures, disability and death. Dr. Karl H. Wenger, biomedical engineer in the MCG Schools of Graduate Studies and Medicine, reported the findings with his colleagues in the journal Bone.

Researchers found vibration improved density around the hip joint with a shift toward higher density in the femur, the long bone of the leg, as well. Hip fractures are a major cause of disability and death among the elderly.

They also found a reduction in a biomarker that indicates bone breakdown and an increase in the surface area involved in bone formation in the vibrating group.

The findings provide more scientific evidence that the technique, which dates back to the 1800s and is now showing up in homes, gyms and rehabilitation clinics, has bone benefit, particularly as a low-risk option for injured individuals with limited mobility, Wenger said.

The scientists theorize that the rhythmic movement, which produces a sensation similar to that of a vibrating cell phone but on a larger scale, exercises cells so they work better. Vibration prompts movement of the cell nucleus, which is suspended by numerous threadlike fibers called filaments. "The filaments get all deformed like springs and then they spring back," Wenger said.

All the movement releases transcription factors that spur new osteoblasts, the cells that make bone. With age, the balance of bone production and destruction by osteoclasts tips to the loss side.

In the case of an injury, vibration acts on stem cells, the master controllers of the healing process. "We think that in fracture healing, you get

Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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