Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thinning Bones and thick heads...

The country and I belong to the same generation. Folks in their sizzling sixties. Been there , done that, kind of people. And so I am always looking out for similarities on what occurs in my life as well as in the country's , and try to ascertain recognizable patterns.

One of the things that one has undergone in the last year or so, is complete onslaught on the Bone system of the body, and its connective stuff.

Which would really surprise you if you knew, that ever since I was born, assorted folks who came by to hold and coo to me as a baby, were known to have remarked on how heavy I was. Later in school, the PT teacher who supervised our physicals, would check my weight twice, because it didn't fit in , and was high, compared with my normal build and agility in sports then.

Many years later, in my fifties, a friend who was a well respected scientist and researcher involved in doing some research on bone densities of urban Indian women announced that she was looking for cases to check bone densities and do followups and so on, and she had a big laugh when I offered myself as a candidate.

My sole interest was a free bone density test . Her sole interest was helping those with low bone densities .

And so it goes without saying that I kind of sailed into my sixties, dense in bone as well as , as it turned out, thinking.

Its very fashionable these days to be aware of menopause. While its fashionable to talk about wrinkles, cranky/cribbing/anxious behaviour, and estrogen making a graceful withdrawal causing hot flushes or whatever, what caught my attention was this business of thinning bones.

I thought I had such a built in advantage, that thinning would never be a part of my skeletal life.

Life has a way of teaching you. And the Internet has a way of explaining things to you.

In the last 2 years, most of my bones /ligaments etc , barring the skull, pelvis, and the big limb bones , have started showing their evil side.

It started with the left little toe which fractured itself banging somewhere, followed by the right little toe a fortnight later in the US of A. Then a few months later, the left shoulder (resulted in an MRI blog post), cervical vertebra (neck level), then the lower back (another post), then the right shoulder (resulting in a sling and another blog post ), again the lower back (and a philosophical post).

The latest is another small toe fracture, which has ended up cracking up some other support structures, and the entire thing is now bound firmly for 3 weeks, making it impossible to limp across the newly widened arterial road outside in the allocated time while shopping for veggies and stuff. Skates as an idea was rejected firmly by some folks, who were concerned about creating potholes on the new road , if I fell.

Turns out that our blood always contains some "mediators" called chemokines or chemoattractants. These things arrange for various signals and stuff, which tell various receptors to go sit in various tissues of the body, like our bones.

The same blood also contains cells that help bone regeneration (osteoblasts), and cells that destroy bone (osteoclasts). Typically, the osteoclasts are yet immature, but are "recruited" by these chemokines, and made to go sit on the bone tissue and mature. After maturity, they start chipping away at your bones, thinning them.

This has an amazing parallel with immature , easily impressionable folks with evil intentions lurking in our society, and they being recruited by appointed messenger types steeped in politics, corruption and violence. The messenger types get these types well established somewhere where they do their destruction work.

You see, as a young girl, these things were not so prevalent in the society around me. Quite simply, the percentage of folks who worried about scruples was fairly large . You trusted people to behave in a certain way. The majority of folks had similar ethical and moral standards, regardless of their economic situation in life.

Like me, the country is now in the 60's and suffering from violence flashes, thinning of its august institutions, where assorted unscrupulous and shameless messenger types have installed , what can only be called "People-clasts", or folks who can be bought for a price.

A national menopause.

Right from the ticket counter clerk at the railway reservation window, to the so called peoples' leaders, , everyone has become a "peopleclast ", eating away at the fabric of the country's life. We have more and more accidents thanks to blind eyes being turned to things, more lives destroyed, more wastage , wild consumption and so on.

It turns out that Ronald Germain, M.D., Ph.D., at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health. and Masaru Ishii, M.D., Ph.D., a Visiting Fellow from Japan, have researched this .

They homed in on a blood messenger called S1P, which was the instigator of the recruitment of immature osteoclasts. And they did experiments to show that if you had receptor cells on your bones that recognized this blood messenger S1P , then you could blindly draw away into the blood, those immature osteoclasts accumulating at your bones, and save the bones, from future destruction.

They ,of course, did experiments with live mice, and using a unique imaging technique, the researchers could see immature osteoclasts migrating away from the bones of the mice in response to S1P in the blood. Mice with functional S1P receptors had denser bones than mice lacking functional S1P receptors.

We need similar S1P types in society. To give hope, to the misguided young and old destroyers, of decent society. The above experimenters even tested a synthetic version of the S1P and found it worked.

Maybe at an age of 63, it is not too late for us as a country, to come up with some inspired well trained S1P's to build up the confidence and good standards in the way we function in this country, and stop our great institutions from being eaten away by the corrupt people-clasts.

But the real puzzle comes later.

The researchers say that they tested a mouse model of postmenopausal osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), to see if adding a synthetic S1P activator, could help preserve bone. Postmenopausal mice who were given that, had fewer immature osteoclasts on their bones and greater bone density when compared with untreated postmenopausal mice.

I know why my bones are behaving the way they do in my menopausal age.

I realize how physiology can teach so much to us as a menopausal nation. And that we need to look for S1P's of our own to change. Be the change we want to be.....

But Yikes ! I didn't realize the mice could have menopause ............


  1. I like your zindadil attitude!
    oohh! i hope you heal fast.If you have time go through the Bone Health links on this site -


  2. Varsha Thank you and I just checked out the link you mention. A very clear and informative article, written in a way we can understand. I hope a lot of my friends read this ......

  3. I always feel that when I reach my mom's age, I wont be able to do half the things she is doing now...and its so true....times are changing and so are our physical constitution...its probably the food we eat or the lifestyle we follow.

  4. Get well soon. So are you taking treatment to reverse this thinning?
    I have been postponing my bone density check up. This post has given me the wake up call I needed.

    I think with what is happening in the country it is a combination of people who don't know what ails them and politicians who wont get treated because a sick society is beneficial to them.
    A country in menopause - you put it so aptly.

  5. Excellent post. It all ends with us, no? We have to be the change, even at the smallest level.

    *goes off to have a bowl of curd, coz my osteoclasts are just beginning to have the upper hand maybe* :)

  6. Great post, Suranga!

    Loved the way you've drawn parallels between what may happen in the case of the human body at a certain age, and what is happening in our country.

    Country in menopause, indeed!

  7. It is a good post as always. Your posts invariabley prepare me for what lies ahead of every human life.. great to have e-guidance!

  8. wow loved this post, direct slap on the way our country is run

    hey you got hurt , i read the small fracture , i hope it heals up soon and that you are taking care of it ...


  9. I do hope your latest (in a long line of) injury heals fast. But you take toe fractures et al totally in your stride! Analysing and parallelising in your inimitable style. So what if the toe stumbles a bit, the brain is as agile as ever. It was a great pleasure to read you, as I/m blog-hopping after a long time.

  10. I hope the troubles go away, with time. I wonder if it might not be a good idea sometimes for each of us to actually escape to the hills so to say, far away from the city, where simplicity of landscape must parallel the simplicity of people.

  11. How you ever managed to link in so many subjects into a single framework beats the sh@@ out of me :-) Take care of your health, though :-)

  12. 10 years down the road from you - small frame - 110 lbs - have fell a number of times. I do a lot of physical work - outside and gardening.
    I wonder - why I have not broken anything.
    Did use my foot like a hammer and not correct shoes when planting flowers and the result was a fractured ankle. I thought it was a sprain and never went to the doctor :) Result I cannot wear the high style shoes I use to - but like my gardening shoes better :)

  13. You are interesting! I mean woha, for the first time I am reading how a 70 yr old thinks ....! loved it I am going to tell my nani about it

  14. Varsha,Uma,Usha,starry,manju,aativas,bikramjit, anilP,writerzblock, Ernestine, Pallavi

    Folks, thank you for the get-well wishes, and wonderful comments.

    @anil p : I totally agree...

    @Pallavi.... your are going a bit fast...I am in the beginning of my seventh decade, not seventy...:-)