(PHILADELPHIA) – Researchers at the University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found by targeting
the function of a single gene that it is possible to inhibit bone
decay while simultaneously stimulating bone formation. This concept
may lead to drug treatments for osteoporosis and other bone diseases.
Senior author Yongwon Choi, PhD, professor of Pathology
and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues
report their findings in the December issue of Nature Medicine.
Osteoporosis is a major quality of life issue for the millions
of senior citizens in the United States and will only become a bigger
problem as the population continues to age.
“The main challenge is how to prevent bone decay while also
encouraging bone growth,” said Choi.
The basic principles behind bone metabolism are largely understood,
hence a handful of drugs treating osteoporosis are available. Most
drugs inhibit osteoclasts, which cause bone decay. But there is
also at least one that stimulates osteoblasts, enhancing bone formation.
A combined treatment will not only prevent the occurrence of osteoporosis,
but also make the quality of bone even better.
“Our discovery proves that inhibiting osteoclasts while simultaneously
stimulating new bone formation can be done.”
Bone health is maintained by the balanced activities of osteoblasts
and osteoclasts. The study shows that the inactivation of gene Atp6v0d2
in mice results in dramatically increased bone mass due to defective
osteoclasts as well as enhanced bone formation. These findings may
provide some clarity into the regulation of bone metabolism and
show that targeting the function of a single gene could possibly
inhibit bone decay while stimulating bone formation.
“We have finally proven the theory that targeting one gene
can do both,” said Choi. “Now that we have demonstrated
a new approach that is theoretically attainable, one that combines
the best of both worlds, we can go to work on the genes up and down
stream from our target gene. If we can find a way to get to our
target gene with a drug we may be able to help the millions of seniors
Dr. Choi was recently named the 2006 winner of Korea’s prestigious
Ho-Am Prize for his work in osteoimmunology. The award recognizes
scholars and researchers who make outstanding achievements by international
standards while encouraging future activities of even higher levels
and who also present exemplary models for the academic community.
Choi, who is originally from Seoul, South Korea, has been at the
University of Pennsylvania since 2001.
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