Bones could play an active role in regulating the body's chemistryBones may play a more active role than previously thought in regulating the body's chemistry, scientists say.
An international team found the molecule osteocalcin, produced by bone cells, is active in helping to regulate blood sugar levels in mice.
This is important in the development of diabetes and obesity, so the findings, in the journal Cell, offer the hope of new ways to treat these conditions.
But experts have warned more research is needed to confirm the link. The researchers looked at two different mice strains, both of which had altered activities of osteocalcin, which is produced by osteoblast cells in bones.
One strain had no osteocalcin gene, and so no osteocalcin, and the other had increased levels of osteocalcin activity.
Lead author Professor Gerard Karsenty of Columbia University said: "Osteocalcin has been known since 1977 to be made by osteoblast cells, but it had no known function."
However, the team found a novel function of the molecule.
Usually, an increase in insulin levels in the blood is accompanied by a decrease in insulin sensitivity. But the authors found osteocalcin boosted both the secretion and the sensitivity to insulin.