How Bones Affect Boners

No, kids, there is not a bone in your penis. However, bones may have unexpected effects on male fertility.

According to the Times, Dr. Gerard Karsenty and his team at Columbia have discovered that bones "talk back to the sex organs." Studies in mice have revealed that their bone-producing cells also produce a protein called osteocalcin, which attaches to receptors in the testes. Take the osteocalcin away (which scientists did artificially) and the mice make less testosterone and are less fertile. Human testicles also have osteocalcin receptors, and scientists say hormones that affect mice almost always have an effect on humans as well. What effect osteocalcin might have on human male fertility isn't clear — researchers plan to study men next. But, says Harvard's Dr. William Crowley of the research,

It's definitely an attention-grabber. I think it will turn out to be a seminal observation.

LOL semen! Bones! Boners! Mouse balls! It is a little hard to make it through the coverage of this research without giggling. However, the findings are important beyond their comedic value. They could change how we understand the body's age-related deterioration — says Karsenty, "bone might not just be a victim of aging. It might also be a contributor." Also, they might someday provide ways to predict and even treat men's low fertility. Right now, a lot of reproductive science focuses on women. But there's an increasing awareness that aging affects men's fertility as well — and someday bone tests could be a way to measure that.

Examining The Mystery Of Skeleton, Sugar And Sex [NYT]

Image via Martin Hladky/