(NaturalNews) The bones in men's bodies serve a much greater purpose than simply the "mere assembly of inert calcified tubes," says a new study out of Columbia University. Published in the journal Cell, the study says that a skeletal hormone known as osteocalcin helps maintain proper testosterone production in males, and that this bone function ensures that germ cells successfully mature into healthy sperm.
Building upon their previous research that found an important connection between the skeletal and reproductive systems, Gerard Karsenty and his colleagues once again decided to investigate the systems and found that osteoblasts, the bone-building cells responsible for osteocalcin production, spur the production of testosterone in the testes, which in turn increases male fertility.
In controlled tests, Karsenty and his team added increasing amounts of osteocalcin to bodily cells that normally produce testosterone. In the presence of osteocalcin, testosterone production observably increased in such cells. And when injecting osteocalcin directly into mice, the team observed that circulating levels of testosterone significantly increased.
Interestingly, this hormone-boosting effect only occurs in males, they said, as the same skeletal hormone did not help boost estrogen levels in females. The team did observe that osteocalcin works specifically to produce testosterone by interacting with the Leydig cells in the testes.
"What this work shows is that we know so little physiology, that by asking apparently naive questions, we can make important discoveries," said Karsenty. "It also shows that bone exerts an important array of functions all affected during the aging process."
The findings also give new insight into the possible causes of what Karsenty calls "[m]ale subfertility with no apparent cause." With a better understanding of how osteocalcin works in regulating hormone production, medical experts can now better pinpoint how to treat infertility in men with hormone deficiencies.
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