Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Anorexics found to have excess fat -- in their bone marrow

Date:
February 10, 2010
Source:
Children's Hospital Boston
Summary:
Researchers have found that girls with anorexia, despite being emaciated, have strikingly high levels of fat in their bone marrow. This can be visualized in MRIs of the knee. The researchers believe that malnutrition causes hormonal alterations that push mesenchymal stem cells in the bone marrow to form fat cells rather than bone-forming cells. This may explain why patients with anorexia have bone loss.

People with anorexia nervosa, paradoxically, have strikingly high levels of fat within their bone marrow, report researchers at Children's Hospital Boston. Their findings, based on MRI imaging of the knees of 20 girls with anorexia and 20 healthy girls of the same age, appear in the February issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

"It's counter-intuitive that an emaciated young woman with almost no subcutaneous fat would be storing fat in her marrow," says endocrinologist Catherine Gordon, MD, MSc, director of the Bone Health Program at Children's and the study's senior investigator.

In the study, the knee MRI images were read by radiologists who were unaware of the patient's clinical status. Compared with controls, the patients with anorexia had markedly increased fat content-- visualized as "yellow marrow"-- and less than half as much healthy red marrow in their knees; this was seen both in the lower thigh bone (femur) and upper shinbone (tibia). The findings in these girls and young women, averaging 16 years of age, confirm previous observations in mice with clinical signs similar to anorexia nervosa, reported by study co-author Clifford Rosen, MD, of the Maine Medical Center.

Previous work has shown that hormonal alterations, which are common in states of malnutrition, trigger the bone marrow's mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into fat cells (adipocytes) rather than bone-forming cells (osteoblasts). Together, the mouse and human studies may explain why people with anorexia nervosa lose bone mass, sometimes to the point of developing osteoporosis and fractures.

"Bone formation is very low in girls with anorexia, and that's a particular problem because they are growing adolescents who should be maximally forming bones," says Gordon. "But because of the hormonal alterations induced by malnutrition, the bone marrow stops yielding the needed cells to form bone. Instead the stem cells are pushed toward fat formation."

Gordon is planning follow-up studies to find out why this happens. One speculation is that it's the body's attempt to store energy and preserve warmth. Anorexics often develop hypothermia because of a lack of insulating fat, and are often hospitalized with extremely low body temperatures.

Gordon also wants see how closely fat in the bone marrow correlates with bone density, and whether measuring fat with noninvasive MRI scans might serve as one way of testing the efficacy of hormonal therapies aimed at improving bone mass. Gordon has several studies testing such therapies in anorexia and other conditions that lead to bone loss, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Kirsten Ecklund, MD, of Children's Department of Radiology, was the study's first author. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Children's Hospital Radiology Foundation, Inc.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Children's Hospital Boston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ecklund K et al. Bone marrow changes in adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa. J Bone Min Res, Feb 2010

Cite This Page:

Children's Hospital Boston. "Anorexics found to have excess fat -- in their bone marrow." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209152229.htm>.
Children's Hospital Boston. (2010, February 10). Anorexics found to have excess fat -- in their bone marrow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209152229.htm
Children's Hospital Boston. "Anorexics found to have excess fat -- in their bone marrow." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100209152229.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins