I always knew my partner’s health would affect his fertility, just as my health affects my own fertility. However, I never considered that his bone structure and skeleton actually play a role until I stumbled across a very interesting study published by Cell Press. In the study, there is evidence that a protein found in human bone can actually enhance testosterone production. This protein is called osteocalcin, and it is secreted by osteoblasts, which are cells that help with bone formation.

Though osteoblasts are crucial for bone production in both men and women, osteocalcin doesn’t perform the same fertility functions in women as they do in men. Osteocalcin binds with a protein receptor only found in the testes and this is what makes the synthesis of testosterone possible. The study used Leydig cells, which produce testosterone, from mice to see if the secreted molecules from osteoblasts were the only type of mesenchymal cells that increase testosterone production. What the study found was that not only does osteocalcin boost the production of testosterone it is the only mesenchymal cell that helps increase the synthesis of testosterone in men. 

This is a pretty huge find in the world of male fertility. Until this study was conducted, there was basically no evidence that the skeletal system also played a role as an endocrine regulator of fertility in men. The study also found that mice that were osteocalcin-deficient didn’t breed well. It could be that in the future, some male fertility issues could be resolved through treatments developed using osteocalcin.

Though osteocalcin treatments for male fertility might still be a ways off, there are plenty of ways to keep your partner’s bones healthy for the time being. Some of the best ways to promote healthy bone production are through basic common sense. Think of bones like tree branches, they need the proper care in order to be healthy and produce leaves. Like a tree needs sunlight, water, and minerals, your bones, and your partner’s bones need exercise and a healthy diet. Along with proper diet and exercising, stretching major muscle groups is also important. I’ve always tried to keep a healthy lifestyle, but now that I know it might impact my partner’s fertility, it’s more important than ever. That’s because the way he treats his body doesn’t just affect him, it also affects the possibility of children in the future.

Source: Oury, F., Roth, B., Suarez, S., Hermo, L., Smith, C., Chang, H., et al. (2011). Endocrine regulation of male fertility by the skeleton. Cell, 144(5), 796-809.