Researchers from the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) in Spain studying deer antlers they think they may have found clues as to what causes osteoporosis.
The research, as part of the Research Institute of Hunting Resources, suggests a lack of calcium -- which is often blamed with causing osteoporosis -- may not actually be the root cause. Going one step further, scientists looked at manganese, an essential element for calcium absorption in bones.
The findings, published in Frontiers of Bioscience journal, have yet to be confirmed by peer review and more research is needed, but the researchers state in a press release that it's a "step in a totally new direction in osteoporosis research as it considers calcium loss to be a consequence of the disease and not the origin."
The idea sparking the research was a dramatic increase in antler breakage in Spain in 2005. What the scientists found when they analyzed the antlers was that the weakening was due to reduced manganese levels caused by a cold winter that resulted in lower manganese concentrations in plants.
Tomás Landete, sub-director of the IREC and one of team's researchers, said, "The lack of manganese was almost as if the 'glue' that sticks calcium to antlers bones was missing."
In addition, the research team has also suggests that depletion of manganese could be linked to Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's. The team reached this conclusion by evaluating patients being operated on with osteoporosis and found 40 percent had "some form of cerebral dysfunction." They also note a link between manganese and Parkinson's disease in that the cells supporting neurons require the element. The researchers state that this does not mean they have found "a final solution to such diseases" but simply another road to follow.
The researchers are moving forward to confirm these findings in human bones and also await peer review.