Researchers have mapped a cell mechanism that plays a key role in age-related bone loss. They suggest that the results not only shed light on the biology of osteoporosis but should also help to develop new drugs to treat the disease.
In the journal PNAS, scientists from both the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Zhejiang University in China explain how a protein called Cbf-beta is important for controlling the rate at which new bone cells replace old ones.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures. Bone is a living tissue that is constantly regenerating, and the body maintains a balance – called homeostasis – between the creation of new bone cells and the removal of old cells.
As we age, the rate at which new bone replaces old or damaged bone slows down and bone density gradually diminishes. But if this rate slows too much, it can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a big global health problem and is more common in women than in men. Estimates suggest that around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 experience bone fractures due to osteoporosis.