It’s estimated that over 50 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from low bone mass or osteoporosis. The degenerative condition is highly common among older women. Essentially, it is the result of decreased bone mass, which leads to weaker bones that are more easily broken or damaged. A startling number of bone fractures or injuries in the U.S. are the result of osteoporosis.
There are a few options for treating this degenerative bone disease. For example, some doctors recommend bisphosphonates, drugs that prevent or slow down the decrease in bone mass and reduce the risk of bone damage. Estrogen therapy may also be recommended if the bone density loss is related to hormonal imbalances.
However, according to research out of Children’s Medical Center Research Institute (CRI) at UT Southwestern may have a new approach to preventing and treating osteoporosis. It all hinges on a bone-forming growth factor known as Clec11a, or Osteolectin.
According to the research, the deletion of this particular growth factor sped up the bone mass loss in adult mice. The mice showed symptoms of the bone degenerative disease, including slowed fracture healing and a reduction in bone strength.
However, when the mice were given daily injections of Osteolectin, there was a significant decrease in bone mass loss. In fact, the Osteolectin was able to successfully reverse the bone loss resulting from hormonal imbalances, (the mice had their ovaries removed to simulate the osteoporosis common among post-menopausal women).
Not only can Osteolectin help to reduce bone degeneration, but it may be able to treat osteoporosis and strengthen bones that have become weakened. With further research, this bone growth factor may one day soon provide a viable treatment for not only a bone disease, but it could lead the way to discoveries in other areas of regenerative medicine.
Until that day, it’s vital that you take steps to prevent bone degeneration the natural way. That means getting enough calcium in your diet, avoiding under-nutrition, and delivering a healthy balance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. It also means controlling your weight, doing regular exercise (high and low impact), and avoiding both smoking and heavy drinking. You also need to spend more time in the sun, as that’s the best way to deliver the vitamin D your body needs to absorb and use calcium. The onus is on you to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
1. Rui Yue, et al., “Clec11a/osteolectin is an osteogenic growth factor that promotes the maintenance of the adult skeleton,” eLife, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.18782, published online 13 December 2016.
2. Nichols, Hannah. “Could new bone-forming growth factor reverse osteoporosis?” Medical News Today, published Thursday, December 29, 2016.