Debby Knox’s 4 Your Health: IU researcher uncovers link between bone loss and COVID in mice

4 Your Health

An Indiana University researcher recently made an interesting discovery, which was published in the journal, Bone

Dr. Melissa Kacena found mice who had come down with COVID-19 experienced bone loss. Even more,  the mice that had mild symptoms, lost some of their bones as well, up to 25 percent.

Melissa Kacena, PhD, is the vice chair of research for the IU School of Medicine’s department of orthopedic surgery.

Last summer during the COVID lockdown, she decided to study what effect, if any, COVID might have on the bones of mice. 

What she found was startling.

“We collected the bones, and we discovered that, lo and behold, there’s this dramatic loss of bone in these mice, in just two weeks after infection,” said Kacena.

 Dr. Kacena’s staff made images of the bones comparing them before and after contracting COVID.  The deterioration was self evident in COVID-infected mice that had symptoms and infected mice that did not show symptoms.

“It’s about 25 percent loss of bone and the cells that break down the bone, called osteoclasts. They were up by more than 60 percent,” said Kacena.

Dr. Kacena is quick to point out that mice studies don’t necessarily translate to humans.

“I don’t know if it translates to humans, but a lot of things do.”

Kacena has learned since her study was published that other researchers are getting similar results.

“I do know that there are some other investigators who are finding similar things that we’re finding, which is great because that’s not just one person, one lab. Multiple people are starting to validate this finding.”

The next step will be searching for any loss of bone in humans, who’ve either come down with COVID or tested positive for the virus.

Indiana University has an NIH facility with Dexa scans of people’s bones, where they can begin to do comparisons of people who had COVID, and if any bone loss can be spotted.   

“One in two women, and one in four men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporatic fracture,” said Kacena. “And now if we add COVID decreasing your bone even quicker, then you’ve going to potentially have these osteoporotic fractures at an earlier age. If you end up having a hip fracture, which is horrible. 25 to 30 percent lose their life with a hip fracture.”

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