Milk Can't Make Their Bones Strong


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The book Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult sparked some curiosity within me. It is about a girl born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare, inherited disease where one's bones are so brittle that they are prone to breaking. The book discussed the patient's individuals struggles as well as her entire family's hardships with the disease. In the novel, the young girl was prone to excessive breakage and was constantly in casts. I wanted to discover what it is like to live with the disease in real life and the possible science behind it.
Apparently, the prevalence of the disease in the U.S is unknown. Anywhere between 20,000 and 50,000 could be affected. There are two types of OI, dominant and recessive. Both are caused by inadequate amounts or a lack of collagen production in the body. Collagen is a protein of the body's connective tissue.  Within the two categories, there are four main types of OI. Type I is the least severe and most common while Type II is the most severe. The rest have varying levels of severity with a lot of overlapping symptoms. Some of the symptoms include: bones fracturing easily, tinted sclera (blue, purple, greyish), short stature, triangular face, bone deformity, brittle teeth, respiratory problems, spinal curvature, and a barrel-shped ribcage. All of these symptoms can be present at varying degrees depending on what type of OI a person has. (http://www.oif.org/site/PageServer?pagename=fastfacts)
There is no cure for OI just yet. Possible treatments for OI include rodding which is the insertion of metal rods in long bones to strengthen them or to fix or prevent malformations. Surgery, pain medications, the use of wheelchairs and braces, keeping a balanced diet and healthy weight, exercise, among other things, are ways to treat the debilitating disease.
The only somewhat reassuring information I found on the disease are that sometimes after puberty the amount of fractures a person gets can decrease and that sometimes in less severe cases a person can sustain only a few fractures in a lifetime. While certain parts of the book seemed over-dramatic at times, after doing some research I realized that it was very realistic. (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteogenesis_Imperfecta/osteogenesis_imperfecta_ff.asp)



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1 Comment

This article really hit home- one of my cousin's friends actually has the disease. Multiple times she was in a full body cast. Seeing her have the disease and not being able to do all of the things a normal child (such as my cousin) is painful, and I could only imagine what her parents are going through. I know she received a bone marrow transplant and that helped, but because I was never personally close to her I don't know the full details, so I googled it:
Edwin M. Horwitz of the University of Minnesota conducted a study of 3 children with osteogenesis imperfecta who underwent allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. For all three children, three months after, there was new dense bone formation and increases intotal body bone mineral content.
Even though this particular experiment isn't reliable due to the small amount of participants, the trial was replicated and seems to have a positive effect.
http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v5/n3/abs/nm0399_309.html

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