A study led by Dr. Cun-Yu Wang and Dr. Bo Yu from the UCLA School of Dentistry, has led to new insights concerning the PGC-1α gene. The PGC-1α gene, a gene activator which was predominately known to regulate reactions that convert and sustain energy for human cells, may also impact whether stem cells turn into fat or bone marrow cells and in turn control the bone-to-fat balance in bone marrow. The findings could lead to a better understanding of the health consequences of the disruption of bone-to-fat ratio in bone marrow, and the gene could be a possible therapeutic target in the treatment of osteoporosis and skeletal aging. The study also suggests that regular physical exercise could help to retain bone health and prevent skeletal aging, as well as provide other health benefits while also inducing PGC-1α expression.
Bone marrow tissue is composed of blood cells, marrow adipose tissue (or fat) and supportive stromal cells (connective tissue cells of any organ). Over the years, clinicians have noticed an inverse relationship between bone mass and fat cells in bone marrow in several medical conditions. An increase in marrow fat is frequently accompanied by a decrease in bone mass during aging as well as metabolic disorders including osteoporosis.
“Possible osteoporosis and skeletal aging treatment comes in the form of PGC-1α gene“
Wang said: "What we found was particularly intriguing, given that PGC-1α has previously only been linked with metabolism but not with adult stem cells. This revelation suggests that PGC-1α could influence how stem cells differentiate into bone and not fat cells, and it could also lead to new therapeutics in osteoporosis."
Yu said: "You could compare PGC-1α to a river that nourishes or maintains bone mass as it winds through the marrow landscape. The river runs dry as we age, prompting more fat cells to form at the expense of bone.”