IU School of Medicine discovers ties between COVID-19 and bone loss

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INDIANAPOLIS — Researchers in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at IU School of Medicine recently discovered that SARS-CoV-2 can cause rapid and rather significant bone loss.

The study is a part of an ongoing coronavirus research conducted by the Kacena Lab in Indianapolis, led by Melissa Kacena, PhD, Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery.

The researchers used mice to perform this study and found that mice infected with COVID-19 saw around 25% loss of their bone mass within just two weeks. They also found a 63% increase in osteoclasts, the cells that cause bone to break down.

Interestingly, these findings were observed even in mice with only mild symptoms of the virus and those that were asymptomatic.

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In 2021, the Kacena lab become the first lab in Indiana to begin using mice as models to study the virus. The lab’s hope is to eventually find a treatment for the disease.

Focusing heavily on SARS-CoV-2 came after several studies revealed that those dying from the coronavirus had high numbers of megakaryocytes, the cells in the bone marrow responsible for making platelets, built up in different organs.

Megakaryocytes are among the Kacena Lab’s areas of expertise.

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Researchers working under Kacena’s mentorship study the cells in relation to bone regeneration and fracture healing.

Osteoporosis, or decreased bone mass, can easily cause brittle bones that can break easily, putting the elderly population at high-risk. Due to this, the team of researchers is now studying if people who have overcome the virus are now even more likely to break a bone.

With the Delta variant on the rise, further questions are raised about whether younger people can still have proper bone development after contracting the virus.

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