We already know that the health of our bones is affected by sex hormones, but scientists have discovered that the relationship may go both ways.
A paper in the journal Cell suggests that bones and the hormones derived therein play a critical role in regulating sex hormones and male fertility. The discovery was a surprise to researchers and may be a route to treating male fertility problems.
Here is what scientists discovered about the bone-sperm connection and what it might mean for men trying to conceive:
The researchers took collections of mouse bone cells (called osteoblasts, which help build new bone) and applied them to cell cultures from both testes and ovaries. The testes cells increased their production of testosterone, while the female ovary cells were not affected.
They also injected mice with osteocalcin — the hormone produced by the bone cells — and found testosterone production went up.
When the team knocked out the gene for osteocalcin in male mice, they had lower sperm counts and their liter sizes were half that of normal male mice.
Scientists are intrigued — the pathway between bone cells, hormones, and male sperm production may provide a new treatment for male infertility down the road.