Washington, DC - A team of scientists has discovered that some widely-prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs also have impressive bone-building capabilities that may make them effective drugs for treating osteoporosis. The team's findings appear in the 3 December issue of Science.
These drugs, known as statins, represent an entirely new approach to treating osteoporosis, one which emphasizes building new bone to replace bone that has already deteriorated. Current therapies for the disease focus on stopping or slowing bone loss and stabilizing a person's existing bone mass.
"Hopefully this will stimulate drug companies to take a look at the statins that they might have on their shelves and do clinical trials on the ones that actually target bone," said Gregory Mundy of Osteoscreen, lead author of the study.
100 million people worldwide are at risk for osteoporosis, particularly postmenopausal women and a rapidly growing elderly population. In osteoporosis patients, bone loses crucial minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and becomes thin and fragile. Fractures of the hip and pain and compression in the spine are some of the most common problems associated with the disorder. Osteoporosis patients have often lost 50 to 60 percent of their bone mass in these crucial areas, so rebuilding this bone is key to their recovery, according to Mundy.
The team of scientists also included Ross Garrett, Jeannie Chan, Di Chen, Giovanni Rossini, Ming Zhao, and Gloria Gutierrez, all from Osteoscreen, as well as Stephen Harris of the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center and Brendan Boyce of the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Mundy and his colleagues identified the statin group as potentially powerful agents against bone loss after an extensive, three month search of over 30,000 natural compounds. Their goal was to find small molecules that could activate the gene for a prote
Contact: Heather Singmaster
American Association for the Advancement of Science