In this issue of the JCI, Li et al. show that germ-free mice, when chemically castrated, do not lose bone — a finding that unequivocally establishes a role of gut microbiota in mediating hypogonadal bone loss. Additionally and not unexpectedly, probiotics reversed hypogonadal osteopenia in sex steroid–deficient mice by preventing the disruption of gut barrier function and dampening cytokine-induced inflammation. The authors propose that TNFα is a key mediator; however, it is very likely that other molecules — including IL-1, IL-6, IL-17, RANKL, OPG, and CCL2 — modulate probiotic action. The results of this study highlight the potential for repurposing probiotics for the therapy of osteoporosis. Future placebo-controlled clinical trials will be required to establish safety and efficacy of probiotics in reducing fracture risk in people.


Jameel Iqbal, Tony Yuen, Li Sun, Mone Zaidi


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