Osteoporosis Research: Local Dallas Scientists Have Uncovered a New Bone-Forming Growth Factor

Scientists at Children’s Medical Research Institute at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX are working hard at uncovering the biological basis of bone formation in mice to help with osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease of low bone mass that predisposes affected individuals to fractures. It is estimated that 54 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, and it is over twice as common in women than men. The most common fracture sites are the spine, wrists and the hips, but any bone is at risk.

Most affected individuals are older individuals. Peak bone mass is achieved by age 25 to 30. After this age, there is a steady 3 to 5% rate of bone loss per decade. Osteoporosis is strongly linked with declining estrogen levels in post-menopausal women, as well as decreased testosterone in men. Additionally, patients taking steroids for long periods of time can find themselves to have decreased bone mass. Screening for bone mass by a doctor is recommended to prevent the progression of osteoporosis and fractures.

Doctors may prescribe osteoporotic patients medication known as a bisphosphonate. These include Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva or Reclast. Also hormone-like medications such as Evista can play a role in osteoporosis treatment; however, they may increase the risk of heart attacks and some types of cancer.

By understanding the biological pathways of bone formation and bone breakdown, scientists can develop new medications to treat osteoporosis. Dr Sean Morrison and Mary McDermott at Children’s Medical Center Resarch Institute (CRI) at UT Southwestern led the study that identified the bone-forming growth factor Osteolectin, or CLec11a.  When this factor was deleted in mice, they noticed accelerated bone loss and symptoms of osteoporosis.  After injecting Osteolectin into the mice, they reported increased bone volume. Dr. Morrison states “These early results are encouraging, suggesting Osteolectin might one day be a useful therapeutic option for osteoporosis.”

While this leading edge therapy is likely years away from making it to the pharmacy shelf, if at all, there are still other medications for patients with low bone density. Prolia, also known as Donsuambid can reduce the risk of fracture in men and women who cannot take a bisphosphonate, and Forteo (teriparatide) is a medication that can actually rebuild bone.

Despite a doctor’s best efforts at screening for osteoporosis and prescribing medication to treat osteoporosis, fractures do still occur. In fact, 27% of the time fractures occur in the spine leading to deformity and pain.  A portion of spine fractures can be successfully treated with a procedure known as kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty. During the procedure, the doctors at Precision Vascular and Interventional will inject a small amount of the cement, known as PMMA, into the fractured vertebra.  The goal of the cement is to strengthen the bone, thereby stabilizing the vertebra, relieving pain and preventing deformity of the spine.

If you are a patient diagnosed with a spinal compression fracture, consider scheduling an appointment with a physician at Precision Vascular and Interventional, the leading independent interventional radiology practice in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  Be sure to bring your imaging report and any CDs for MRIs or CTs that you may have had in the past, if available. You can read more about the kyphoplasty procedure on our website.

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Prior to starting any new treatment or questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.