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Binge Drinking Seriously Impairs Bone Healing

Update Date: Oct 07, 2013 09:38 AM EDT

Binge drinking can actually impair the healing process following a bone fracture, a new study suggests.

New research preformed by Loyola University Medical Center researchers reveal insights into how alcohol slows healing on cellular and molecular levels. Further research carries the possibilities of treatments to improve bone healing in alcohol abusers and also non-drinkers.

“Many bone fractures are alcohol-related, due to car accidents, falls, shootings, etc.,” said Roman Natoli in a press release. “In addition to contributing to bone fractures, alcohol also impairs the healing process. So add this to the list of reasons why you should not abuse alcohol.”

They presented their findings yesterday during the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2013 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Researchers started their research on mice. They tested the effects of alcohol consumption on bone healing in mice. A group of mice was exposed to alcohol. The alcohol levels were roughly equivalent to three times the legal limit for driving.

Following three ways were concluded in which alcohol impaired bone healing after a fracture.

  • There were differences between the control group and the alcohol-exposed group in the callus, the hard bony tissue that forms around the ends of fractured bones. In the alcohol-exposed group, the callus was less mineralized, meaning not as much bone was forming. Moreover, the bone that did form was not as strong.
  • Mice exposed to alcohol showed signs of oxidative stress, a process that impairs normal cellular functions. The alcohol-exposed mice had significantly higher levels of malondialdehyde, a molecule that serves as a marker for oxidative stress. Additionally, levels of an enzyme that decreases oxidative stress, super oxide dismutase, were higher in the alcohol-exposed mice (but not quite high enough to be considered statistically significant).
  • During the healing process, the body sends immature stem cells to a fracture site. After arriving at the site, the stem cells mature into bone cells. Two proteins, known as SDF–1 and OPN, are involved in recruiting stem cells to the injury site. In the alcohol-exposed group, OPN levels were significantly lower.

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