Recently, some scientists investigated the effects of social isolation on bone loss in mice. They discovered that social isolation can cause increased bone loss in males but not females. Is this a possibility in human beings? This article examines the science behind the claims and the connection between male bone health and loneliness.
What Were The Study’s Findings?
For the study, researchers divided 32 16-week-old male and female mice into two groups. The first group simulated social isolation by keeping one mouse per cage. In the second group, each cage was shared by four mice.
Ultimately, the isolated male mice experienced reductions in bone density. Further analysis also revealed that male mice had signs of reduced bone modeling. This is a process that includes the formation of new bone and can increase the risk of fracture. On the other hand, female mice in the study did not suffer from bone loss following social isolation.
What Are The Underlying Mechanisms?
According to Dr. Rebecca Mountain, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Molecular Medicine at MaineHealth Institute for Research, the precise mechanisms for how social isolation could lead to bone loss are unknown. However, her team is exploring different possibilities, including the role of multiple stress hormones and the body’s sympathetic nervous system.
Why The Sex Differences?
Dr. Mountain said they are investigating why social isolation affected males and females
differently. She also said estrogen is known to have a protective effect on bone and could play a role in the varying outcomes.
What Were The Study’s Limitations?
According to Dr. Mountain, the study’s limitations include its small sample size and lack of
behavioral data to understand how isolation affected anxious or depressive behavior in mice. Dr. William Buxton, board-certified neurologist and director of Neuromuscular and Neurodiagnostic Medicine, also said the study is limited by the use of animals in cages. He said this makes it an imperfect model of human activity.
What Are The Implications For Future Research?
Dr. Buxton said that alcohol might also play a role if these results are demonstrated in humans. He also said that isolation is a risk factor for alcohol use, meaning alcohol is possibly a connection between isolation and decreased bone mineral density in humans.
According to researchers, the only implication of the study is that more studies need to be
conducted. This is because societal interaction is too broad of a variable, and the changes in the cortisol levels of mice still need to be understood. When this happens, the study can be conducted on primates and possibly humans.