In recent years, understanding of the role neural processes play in skeletal biology has provided important insights into bone health and disease. Our group has been involved in this field through study of a neural pathway driven by the nerve signalling molecule neuropeptide Y (NPY) and examination of its effects on bone homeostasis.
Through a series of murine studies, we have shown that signals processed in the hypothalamus of the brain exert powerful inhibitory influences upon the bone forming cell, the osteoblast, and that by inhibiting these signals we can stimulate the production of bone by these cells.
Our work has defined a pathway involving specific NPY receptors within the hypothalamus and those expressed locally in the osteoblast lineage. Together these studies define a multi-level integration of NPY signalling with cells of the osteoblastic lineage, all of which have effects on bone mass and formation.
In addition to effects on bone mass, NPY is a critical regulator of whole body energy and glucose homeostasis. Our studies have shown that bone homeostasis is coordinated with these processes through the actions of the NPY system. Moreover, we have demonstrated that signals from bone cells are capable of regulating these processes.
This work illustrates the importance of neural signals to bone homeostasis and the integration of bone within a larger regulatory framework.