Disuse osteopenia was studied in hibernating black bears (Ursus americanus) using serum markers of bone metabolism. Blood samples were collected from male and female, wild black bears during winter denning and active summer periods. Radioimmunoassays were done to determine serum concentrations of cortisol, the carboxy-terminal cross-linked telopeptide, and the carboxy-terminal propeptide of Type I procollagen, which are markers of hone resorption and formation, respectively. The bone resorption marker was significantly higher during winter hibernation than it was in the active summer months, but the bone formation marker was unchanged, suggesting an imbalance in bone remodeling and a net bone loss during disuse. Serum cortisol was significantly correlated with the bone resorption marker, but not with the bone formation marker. The bone formation marker was four- to fivefold higher in an adolescent and a 17-year-old bear early in the remobilization period compared with the later summer months. These findings raise the possibility that hibernating black bears may minimize bone loss during disuse by maintaining osteoblastic function and have a more efficient compensatory mechanism for recovering immobilization-induced bone loss than that of humans or other animals.
Additional publication details
Serum markers of bone metabolism show bone loss in hibernating bears