Found: Hormone that builds your bones

November 1st, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 1 (IANS) Remember Skelegro in Harry Potter, the medicine that grows your bones back? Scientists have found a hormone that may have the same effect, though not as fast as in the magic world.A crucial step in hormone-triggered bone growth that has been discovered could open up a way to new osteoporosis drugs and better bone-building therapies.

The findings at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) showed that parathyroid hormone (PTH) given intermittently, enhances the body’s own bone-building action through a specific “co-receptor” on the surface of bone cells.

Previously, PTH was known to stimulate bone formation, but the exact mechanism was unknown, UAB researchers said.

“Our study uncovers a novel mechanism for how parathyroid hormone signalling selectively stimulates bone formation,” said Xu Cao, UAB professor of pathology and senior author of the study. “We have identified the protein co-receptor crucial to the whole process.”

UAB researchers focused on PTH signals in mice, testing to see which cell receptors actively recruited calcium from the blood. They uncovered the one co-receptor responsible for turning on bone-building, said Mei Wan, UAB associate professor of molecular and cellular pathology and study co-author.

Previously, the exact mechanism of PTH-signalled bone formation was shrouded by the joint production of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, said Jay McDonald, M.D., pathology professor and director of UAB’s Centre for Metabolic Bone Disease.

Both types of cells are instrumental in regulating a healthy skeleton - osteoblasts by forming new bone, and osteoclasts by resorbing old and brittle bone, said an UAB release. The findings were published in Genes and Development.

Many anti-osteoporosis drugs now target both osteoblasts and osteoclasts, which can lead to zero or minimal bone formation, McDonald said.

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