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Alcohol Abuse Can Damage Bones

It interferes with bone metabolism and bone mass maintenance, study finds

THURSDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol disrupts genes needed to maintain healthy bones, which can lead to a decrease in bone mass and bone strength, a new study says.

In previous research, the study authors, from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, showed that giving rats large amounts of alcohol caused significant decreases in bone density and bone strength, but the mechanisms responsible for these effects weren't clear.

In this new study, rats were injected with an amount of alcohol equivalent to binge drinking for three days or chronic alcohol abuse for four weeks in humans. When they examined genes responsible for bone health, the researchers found that alcohol affected the amounts of RNA associated with these genes. RNA acts as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.

Alcohol increased the amount of RNA associated with some genes and decreased the amount of RNA associated with other genes. These changes in RNA disrupted two molecular pathways -- the Wnt signaling pathway and the Intergrin signaling pathway -- responsible for normal bone metabolism and bone mass maintenance, the researchers said.

The findings, published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, could help in the development of new drugs to minimize bone loss in people who abuse alcohol. Such drugs also might help people at risk for osteoporosis.

"Of course, the best way to prevent alcohol-induced bone loss is to not drink or to drink moderately. But when prevention doesn't work, we need other strategies to limit the damage," study co-author and bone biologist John Callaci, as assistant professor in the department of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation, said in a Loyola news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about bone health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Loyola University, news release, Oct. 23, 2008

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