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Serotonin: What the gut feeds the bones

Chemical messenger plays a surprising role in determining the strength of the skeleton

1:00pm, May 22, 2009

The hip bone is connected to the backbone. The backbone is connected to the neck bone. And lately, scientists have begun to think that all dem bones may be connected to the intestine — at least by biochemical signals. If the current evidence holds up, it means that a chemical better known for influencing the brain may also corrode the internal structure of the skeleton.

Such is the state of research into bone biology: “The more we understand, the more complex it gets,” says Clifford Rosen of the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough. Rosen is one of a growing number of researchers who think that the brain, intestine and skeleton are conducting an ongoing biochemical negotiation that affects the ebb and flow of tissue building inside bones. One of the chief currencies appears to be serotonin, a neurotransmitter most famous for its role in depression.

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