New drug breakthrough brings osteoporosis cure closer to reality

ANI| Updated: Feb 03, 2014, 11:54 AM IST

Washington: A team of scientists has discovered a new drug which appears to be a potent stimulator of new bone growth, thus leading to new treatments for osteoporosis and other diseases that occur when the body doesn't make enough bone.

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied mice, and principal investigator Fanxin Long focused on a pathway involved in bone formation.

The so-called WNT proteins carry messages into cells and regulate embryonic and adult tissue in mammals, including humans. The WNT proteins enter cells from the outside and then can activate multiple pathways inside those cells.

Long's team reported that a specific member of the WNT family of proteins dramatically enhances bone formation, and it works through a mechanism that has not been well-studied in bone before.

It's called the mTOR pathway, and it interprets a cell's surrounding environment, and nutritional and energy status.

"By analyzing that information, mTOR can determine whether a cell should go into a mode to make lots of stuff, like proteins or, in this case, new bone," explained Long.

Long and his colleagues studied mice that made either normal levels or an extra amount of WNT proteins. They found that a particular WNT protein, WNT7B, is a potent stimulator of bone formation in mice.

They also found that the protein created more bone by greatly increasing the number of bone-manufacturing cells in the mice.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.