Dr. Rubin, director of the Center for Biotechnology at the State University of New York, is reporting that in mice, a simple treatment that does not involve drugs seems to be directing cells to turn into bone instead of fat.
All he does is put mice on a plate that shakes with repeated small, quick movements at such a low frequency that some people cannot even feel it. The mice stand there for 15 minutes a day, five days a week. Afterwards, they have 27 percent less fat than mice that did not stand on the plate—and correspondingly more bone.
Some scientists are hopeful. They claim that in mice, sheep and turkeys, at least, standing on a flat vibrating plate led to bone growth. Small studies in humans—children with brain damage who could not move much on their own—indicated that the vibrations might build bone in people, too. They continue to support their argument with a recent finding that a stem cell in bone marrow can turn into either fat or bone, depending on what message it receives.
However, other scientists are skeptical. They believe there may be other reasons that the mice were less fat. For instance, the mice on the vibrating plate were simply burning more calories because they were using more energy to balance themselves on a plate that moved 90 times a minute. Dr. Leibel, a researcher at Columbia University, also questioned the idea that precursor cells from bone marrow could turn into fat cells in the rest of the body.