New hope for osteoporosis

Researchers have developed pills that rebuild bone in rodents with severe osteoporosis. (SUPPLIED)

A once-a-day pill helped completely rebuild bone in rodents with severe osteoporosis, a finding that could lead to a new class of drugs to treat the brittle-bone disease in humans, US researchers have said.

The team tested a compound that blocks the production of serotonin produced in the gut in mice and rats with a severe form of the disease and found they recovered their bone density.

Using the findings, he said the team is working to develop this type of treatment for human patients with osteoporosis, in which bones become fragile and porous, increasing the risk of fracture.

The study builds on prior research by the same team that found the chemical messenger serotonin – when released by the gut – inhibits bone formation.

Serotonin is most commonly known for its role in the brain as a chemical messenger but 95 per cent of the serotonin in the body is produced in the gut as a way to regulate bone formation, said Dr Gerard Karsenty of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, whose study appears in the journal Nature Medicine.

"We thought that if we could inhibit the synthesis of serotonin in the gut, it could be a way to treat osteoporosis," he said. "Luckily for us, there are a couple of inhibitors of gut-derived serotonin that do not affect the synthesis of brain-derived serotonin."

He said the drug had been tested in people in early safety studies but the findings were preliminary and many more tests were needed before it can be tested in people with osteoporosis.

 

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