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23-06-2010 | Bone health | Article

Binge alcohol consumption may harm adolescent vertebral bone health


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from an animal study suggest that teenage binge drinking may alter the transcription of genes affecting bone mineral density in the vertebral spine.

“Because bone mass is lost throughout adult life as part of the ageing process, the failure to obtain a normal peak bone mass during early adulthood becomes an important risk factor for the development of osteoporosis later in life,” explain John Callaci (Loyola University, Maywood, Illinois, USA) and co-workers.

The team examined the lumbar vertebrae transcriptome in 60 adolescent rats who were exposed to differing levels of alcohol. The animals were given acute binges of alcohol (3 g/kg for 3 days) or saline, chronic binges (4 consecutive weeks of 3-day binges), or a chronic binge cycle followed by a 30-day abstinence period.

As reported in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, from 14,665 genes examined, 30 genes were found to be differentially expressed in the rat vertebrae following acute binge alcohol exposure and 180 were differentially expressed after chronic binge alcohol treatment.

In particular, acute binge alcohol consumption was associated with differences in the expression of genes associated with two bone metabolism pathways, and cytokine and integrin signaling, while chronic binge alcohol altered gene expression in three bone metabolism pathways, integrin and Wnt signaling, and angiogenesis.

A further 512 genes were differentially expressed in rats given chronic binge alcohol treatment followed by abstinence – affecting bone metabolism pathways, the circadian clock, integrin and Wnt signaling, and oxidative stress response.

Of note, differential expression of 15 genes occurred after both acute and chronic exposure, 21 genes after acute exposure and abstinence, five genes after chronic exposure and abstinence, and two genes in all three groups.

The researchers say their findings regarding exposure followed by abstinence “validates the hypothesis that the repercussions of alcohol exposure on bone tissue extend well beyond the active period of alcohol intoxication in relation to both bone integrity and molecular activity.”

Callaci et al suggest that gene markers could be used to “detect evidence of lasting bone damage in binge drinkers at the molecular level, which could identify those individuals with a predisposition to osteopenia later in life.”

“These patients could then be targeted for pre-emptive therapeutic treatment to maintain their bone health,” they say.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lynda Williams

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