Good Vibrations: Study Shows Low Magnitude Vibration Reverses Signs of Bone Aging
Sticks and stones will break my bones, but age will never hurt me. Well, that’s not exactly how the phrase goes, and that’s definitely not how it applies to bones. With age, our bones can deteriorate and become quite fragile, a condition known as osteoporosis. This is thought to occur, in part, due to the arrest in growth and replication — a process called senescence — in adult stem cells that contribute to bone tissue.
Now, new research shows that low magnitude vibration can shake off the proliferative dust of these bone-making adult stem cells and help them wake up from their senescent state. Published in the journal Aging, these results suggest that inhibiting senescence of bone-producing cells by low magnitude vibration could be a valuable treatment to prevent or delay osteoporosis.
“Wouldn’t it be nice” to offset osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a type of systemic bone disease characterized by decreased bone density and destruction of bone microstructure, resulting in increased bone fragility and increased risk of fractures. These bone changes occur with age due to genetic and environmental causes. Regardless of the triggers, the dysfunction of bone-producing cells — which starts with stem cells in the bone marrow that give rise to osteoblasts that ultimately turn into osteocytes that form mature bone — is one of the main causes of bone loss in the elderly.
How to “get around” cell senescence
Cell senescence has also been proposed to be a player in disease-related changes of bone tissue. But, which bone-producing (osteogenic) cells get affected by aging and senescence is not fully understood. Is it the bone marrow stem cells, the osteoblasts, or the osteocytes? This information is critical to honing in on a potential anti-aging therapy that can improve the bone microenvironment in the elderly.
As a non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical exercise therapy, low magnitude vibration has been proven to promote bone formation. But whether low magnitude vibration can regulate osteogenic adult stem cells and fight off senescence in aged rodents, let alone humans, remains unclear. This begs the question: Is low magnitude vibration a potential anti-aging therapy for the bones of elderly people?
“Giving [my bones] excitations”
In the present study, a research team led by Jirui Wen and colleagues from Sichuan University in China found that osteogenic cells from aged rats exhibited signs of senescence and loss in ability to contribute to bone. These changes were pronounced across the osteogenic lineage, as the researchers observed increased senescence in the bone marrow stem cells, osteoblasts, and osteocytes of aged rats compared to young ones.
This appeared to result in the suppression in the proliferative capacity and functional activity of osteogenic cells from aged rats. Specifically, the bone-cell producing capacity of bone mesenchymal stem cells from aged rats decreased. In osteoblasts, the capacity for mineralization — the creation of the bone microenvironment — and protein levels related to the bone formation from aged rats decreased. Additionally, the levels of a negative regulator of bone formation decreased.
To inhibit osteogenic cell senescence and essentially fight off aging, Wen and colleagues applied low magnitude vibration in elderly rats. After low magnitude vibration treatment, the number of osteogenic cells with senescence markers decreased significantly across the board, with reductions in bone marrow stem cells, osteoblasts, and osteocytes. Concurrently, these cells appeared to induce an anti-aging protein called SIRT1.
What’s more, low magnitude vibration was able to promote bone formation in aged rats. Notably, the bone density of the femur was significantly decreased in aged rats compared with young rats but partly restored after vibration.
Beach boys once again
“To the best of our knowledge, this was the first study that revealed the inhibitory role of low magnitude on cell senescence,” propose Wen and colleagues. “Our research is ... of great significance for the treatment of senile osteoporosis,” propose Wen and colleagues.
Although more studies are needed to show that this work translates to people, there are already products on the market that provide low magnitude vibration for bone growth that could be readily utilized to slow bone aging. With a little bit of bone stimulation, you may soon be ready to put on a swimsuit, grab a board, and start “Surfin' U.S.A.”
Wen J, Bao M, Tang M, He X, Yao X, Li L. Low magnitude vibration alleviates age-related bone loss by inhibiting cell senescence of osteogenic cells in naturally senescent rats. Aging (Albany NY). 2021;13(8):12031-12045. doi:10.18632/aging.202907