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Bone Morphogenetic Protein: The Newest Fix for Bone Health Issues?

The health of your bones and joints depends on two things: remodeling and regeneration. This lifelong process involves the removal of mature bone material from your skeleton while new bone tissue is formed. It also involves the process of replacing and reshaping bone when you encounter a fracture or injury to your skeletal system. Bone morphogenetic protein plays a crucial role in this process. As we age, we tend to encounter an increasing frequency of bone problems. This is why, if you're dealing with osteoporosis or osteopenia, you will want to understand how you can rebuild your bone strength naturally.

Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP)

An image of different colored protein strandsOccurring in your body naturally, bone morphogenetic proteins are certain proteins considered osteoinductive. They play a role in bone formation and health. While we have several different variations of bone morphogenetic protein present in our body, research has thus far focused on two: BMP-2 and BMP-3.

BMP-2 refers to a bone morphogenetic protein that not only plays a role in bone and cartilage development, but also in the hedgehog pathway, cytokine to cytokine receptor interaction, and the transforming growth factor-beta (TGFB) signaling pathway.

To clarify, the hedgehog pathway involves the transmission of information to embryonic cells necessary for correct cell differentiation. This pathway was named after fruit fly larvae that are said to resemble hedgehogs if they are missing a key signaling molecule in their development. Cytokine to cytokine receptor interaction refers to the binding of cytokines to cytokine receptors. Cytokines are proteins that play a role in cell signaling and proper endocrine and immune modulation. Lastly, the TGBF signaling pathway plays a role in cell growth, cell migration, cell differentiation, cellular homeostasis, and apoptosis, amongst others.

BMP-3 also plays a role in bone and cartilage development. However, it has a negative effect on bone density. This makes it an antagonist to other bone density morphogenetic proteins in that it reduces your bone density. This may seem incongruous, but it plays a major role in promoting bone health under normal circumstances. It may benefit areas of the bone where cells are old and need to be removed in order to be replaced by younger, healthier cells.

Bone Morphogenetic Protein Signaling in Osteoblasts and Osteoclasts

Osteoblasts are specialized cells that play a role in bone matrix synthesis and skeletal mineralization. They work together closely with osteoclasts to cause the resorption of bone. Bone morphogenetic protein plays an important role in this process due to its involvement in cell differentiation and signaling. Many studies indicate that introducing an external bone morphogenetic source may enhance bone development or rebuilding. Especially when done so in specific areas. Spinal fusions, for example, have seen great success on this score.

We find bone morphogenetic protein in both osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts help with the bone-building process. Osteoclasts, on the other hand, help remove the old or damaged bone. This creates a delicate balance in providing a healthy bone matrix.

In someone with a health issue like postmenopausal osteoporosis, i.e., a loss of bone mass, you may see an imbalance in osteoblasts and osteoclasts that leads to a decrease in new bone formation and an increase in bone reduction. This situation may result from your bone morphogenetic protein composition. Thus, while some of these proteins may promote bone growth, on the one hand, others promote bone growth reduction.

Spinal Fusions and Bone Morphogenetic Protein

An x-ray showing a spinal fusionThousands of people have, over the years, undergone spinal fusion procedures. These can happen for multiple reasons, such as to stabilize your back after the removal of a herniated disk, to address a spinal weakness, or help correct spinal abnormalities. The most common of these surgeries involve the grafting of bone between two vertebrae so that they frow together into one, longer bone. The bone graft may come from your own hip, be harvested from a cadaver, or be a synthetic substitute. In short, this process results in a fusion of two or more vertebrae.

Although generally regarded as a safe procedure, it does carry an element of risk which includes the possibility of:

  • Blood clot formation
  • Infection
  • Wound healing difficulties
  • Pain from the graft site
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to nerves and blood vessels in the area of the fusion

A new development in spinal fusion procedures advocates the use of bone morphogenetic protein. Many consider it a safer, more effective spinal fusion method.

Why Literature Advocates Bone Morphogenetic Protein Use In Spinal Fusions

Many studies suggest that bone morphogenetic protein may prove safe and effective in certain bone graft procedures. It may facilitate the fusion rate equally, if not more than, a traditional bone graft. This may help avoid many of the negatives surrounding traditional bone grafting. It may reduce the risk of complication, allow for a quicker recovery time with less pain, and reduce the time spent on the surgery itself.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared BMP-2 for use in specific types of bone grafting procedures, many in the health profession have seen its benefits in other areas as well and often use it in ‘off-label’ procedures as well. This refers to procedures for which a drug, for example, has not been cleared. Although this practice is not considered illegal, it has come under scrutiny in the past few years. The FDA has, however, issued recommendations for procedures where they do not recommend the use of a bone morphogenetic protein.

Using bone morphogenetic protein in spinal fusions has two main goals:

  1. The creation of a spinal fusion that is equal to or better than a traditional spinal fusion.
  2. The elimination of the need for bone harvesting, thereby protecting you from the possible side effects or complications of the bone harvesting procedure.

When doing a bone morphogenetic protein fusion, the proteins are extracted from your purified collagen matrix and then implanted where needed.

Negative Aspects of Bone Morphogenetic Protein

While bone morphogenetic protein use has many benefits for certain types of applications, studies do show that its use may have certain negative side effects in some people. These include the following:

  • Postoperative inflammation and associated side effects.
  • Ectopic bone formation, i.e., the laying down of bone material in areas where it does not belong.
  • Inappropriate adipogenesis, i.e., the inappropriate expansion of the subcutaneous adipose cells leads that could ultimately cause weight gain and other issues.
  • Osteoclast-mediated bone resorption, i.e., the breaking down of the tissues in your bones, releasing minerals, and resulting in a transfer of calcium from your bones into your blood. This could compromise the bone structure.

So, when considering a procedure making use of bone morphogenetic protein, or even taking a supplement, you need to be aware of the possible consequences. The best way of preserving your health or limiting negative side effects is by talking to your healthcare professional.

Bone Health and Inflammation

An image of a person holding their back as if in painOne major contributor to bone health problems is inflammation. Inflammation is part of your immune system's response to stress. It happens when your body is trying to heal itself. So, it can be a good thing, but only when of short duration.

Constant stress, no matter the source, could result in continuous inflammation. This continuous inflammation, referred to as chronic inflammation, could result in various health issues. Amongst these are issues relating to bone and joint health, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Chronic inflammation could also add to obesity, heart disease, and adrenal fatigue, among others.

Your Inflammation Circuit has three main parts: your immune system, intestinal tract, and microbiome. Whatever negatively affects one of these affects the other two because of how closely these systems work together.

With continuous inflammation, such as from arthritis, for example, you may experience issues in your intestinal tract and microbiome composition. This could result in diverse health issues relating to your gut lining and gut flora composition. Irritable bowel syndrome is a good example. Symptoms may include diarrhea, constipation, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, pain, nausea, and even some added joint pain. Inflammation can also aggravate issues related to bone health.

Bone Morphogenetic Protein Supplements

A few supplements contain bone morphogenetic protein. They may help build up bones and joints, especially after engaging in extreme sports. According to some literature, for example, Ostinol, which contains the active ingredient Cyplexinol, has been shown to reduce joint pain while helping the body build up cartilage and bone tissue. A 2017 study, published by the National Library of Medicine, suggests that Ostinol may have a beneficial effect on someone suffering from osteoporosis by improving bone density when taken over a few years.

Another study in the same publication featuring the use of this supplement for osteoarthritis found that participants experienced a reduction in pain frequency and intensity, with an increase in activity level. This was ascribed to the effect of the supplement on the possible pathways associated with cartilage degradation, pain, and inflammation. While the researchers suggested more research was needed, they also suggested that BMP supplements could help maintain joint homeostasis.

Alternatives for Bone and Joint Health

An image of healthy foodThe best ways to support bone and joint health include improving your diet (see the adrenal fatigue diet for suggestions) and keeping active. Reducing inflammation is a key aspect of avoiding bone and joint issues. Here are a few ways to support your bone health and keep inflammation low.

  • Stock up on anti-inflammatory foods like broccoli, brown rice, cherries, oatmeal, nuts, and fatty fish. Certain herbs and spices, like turmeric and ginger, for example, also have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Avoid foods that promote inflammation, like sugary foods, processed foods, and fried foods.
  • Lose the weight if you need to. Extra weight tends to put more pressure on your bones and joints. It can also contribute to health issues like type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Massaging with olive oil helps ease bone and joint distress. A teaspoon of this oil taken orally may also help with pain relief.
  • A warm water Epsom salts soak may help replenish magnesium on the one hand, while the warm water will help ease the pain. Magnesium helps fight inflammation.
  • Hot or cold compresses may also help. A hot compress, when placed on an affected joint, may help loosen up stiff joints. A cold compress may help reduce swelling due to inflammation.

In Closing

Bone morphogenic protein may be of great benefit to people with bone and joint issues as well as for those undergoing a bone fusion procedure. The use of this protein may also have some unforeseen consequences, however.

If suffering from any bone or joint issues, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation.

  • If you need a bone fusion procedure, talk to your healthcare professional about the use of bone morphogenetic protein instead of a bone graft.
  • Consider the use of a Ostinol supplement with a health care practitioner's guidance.
  • Make use of the various natural methods for supporting bone health as well, such as eating a healthy diet, losing weight, reducing inflammation, and trying Epson salt baths.

Whatever course of action you decide on, it's important to talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements. Share your concerns with them, and develop an overall plan to support your bone health in the long term.

If you would like to know more about the use of bone morphogenic protein, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free* no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will discuss your concerns and options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2022 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Adrenal fatigue has no quick fix. Bone morphogenetic protein can, however, help address some of the issues relating to the condition. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether it will work for you. They know your medical history and are best able to decide its suitability.

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