Osteolectin, a factor produced by particular bone marrow and bone cells, appears to coax skeletal stem cells to form new bone.
Osteoporosis affects over 200 million people worldwide. While there are bisphosphonate drugs and HRT treatments that delay and prevent additional bone loss, only one drug to date has been found to instigate new bone growth - Teriparatide. Unfortunately Teriparatide can only be used for a period of 2 years, due to risk of osteosarcoma. New treatments are critical to eliminating osteoporosis in the future.
Osteolectin may induce bone growth
A protein called Osteolectin (also known as Clec11a) is known to play a role in the growth of new bone. A new study by scientists from the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern sought to study the effects in more detail; in the hope of developing novel treatments for osteoporosis.
"These results demonstrate the important role Osteolectin plays in new bone formation and maintaining adult bone mass. This study opens up the possibility of using this growth factor to treat diseases like osteoporosis"
The team initially found that deleting Osteolectin caused accelerated bone loss and early symptoms of osteoporosis in mice - suggesting the protein plays an important role in bone maintenance.
When they removed the ovaries in a group of mice, to model onset of osteoporosis in menopausal women, they then injected either Teriparatide or Osteolectin to test their effects. Both treatments significantly raised bone growth in comparison to the control, and both reversed the previous loss of bone following ovary removal. The research therefore suggests that Osteolectin could perhaps be a safer alternative to Teriparatide - although this needs to be tested much more rigorously.
These early results are encouraging, suggesting Osteolectin might one day be a useful therapeutic option for osteoporosis, in regenerative medicine and for space travel.