Bone resorption cells offer drug targets for osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more

Washington University pathologist Dr. Steven Teitelbaum describes how he and his colleagues are using their understanding of the role of osteoclasts to develop therapeutic targets for osteoporosis and the bone loss around joints in rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Teitelbaum was a member of the team that first recognized the cause, then cured osteopetrosis (a fatal disease of the osteoclast cells that absorb bone) in an infant. The infant was cured by a bone marrow transplant that gave her normal bone resorbing cells, but the Teitelbaum group's understanding of how the osteoclasts worked opened the door to development of drugs, such as Fosamax, that inhibit these cells and thus diminish the rate of bone degradation.

To honor this and other ongoing work, Dr. Teitelbaum is the recipient of this year's Rouse Whipple Award, presented by the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) to a pathologist with an illustrious career in research and continued productivity in the field. His Rouse Whipple Award Lecture on April 3 at the Experimental Biology 2006 meeting in San Francisco is part of ASIP's scientific program.

Bone is continuously broken down (resorbed) by osteoclasts and formed by another type of cells, the osteoblasts. Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of bone resorption surpasses that of bone formation. Dr. Teitelbaum has spent his career trying to understand the precise details of how osteoclasts work, with a recent focus on the discovery, by Dr. Teitelbaum and his colleague F. Patrick Ross, that the bone degrading capacity of osteoclasts depends upon their physical interaction with receptor proteins on the bone surface. Blocking these receptors, known as integrins, also prevents osteoporosis, as demonstrated when mice bred by the researchers to lack genes for the major integrins develop increased bone mass.

Developing drugs that focus on inhibiting the effect of integrins on the osteoclasts has potential advantages, says D

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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