Our primary aim is to understand the biology of bone cells, but also to identify the communication pathways that exist between these cells and other organs of the body. Utilising unique, cross-disciplinary studies involving neuroscience, metabolism and endocrinology we have revealed that a specific neuropeptide pathway, the neuropeptide Y (NPY) pathway, forms the critical link between the skeleton and those central systems designed to regulate whole body energy homeostasis.
Skeletal biology is controlled by a very complex regulatory input, with many systems influencing bone remodelling, but very minimal regulatory output. Our group, however, is among a few in the world to have demonstrated powerful interactions between bone cells and the brain, as well as adipose and glucose homeostatic axes. For example, altering NPY signalling specifically in the bone forming osteoblasts in mice disrupts glycaemic control through specific shifts in beta cell mass and insulin production, while we have also shown fundamental links between bone cells and the control of obesity. In this manner, we have demonstrated that skeletal homeostasis acts as part of a co-ordinated network which responds to, and regulates, numerous other processes: Thereby outlining a far more complex and integrated skeletal biology than has ever been appreciated in the past. At its broadest, our work highlights the importance of a new level of endocrine communication, acting between organ systems, and also reveals the skeleton as an origin of signals that regulate energy and glucose homeostasis.
Our hope is to isolate the molecules responsible for these inter-organ effects as a means of providing unique therapeutic options for diseases such as osteoporosis, obesity and diabetes that are based upon the body’s own innate regulatory principles.