Study reveals bone coupling factor key to skeletal health (w/ Video)

July 8, 2009

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have discovered a molecular coupling factor that helps bones grow and remodel themselves to stay strong, a finding that could lead to better bone-building therapies and new osteoporosis drugs, the researchers said.

The coupling factor is a human protein called transforming growth factor beta-1, or TGF beta-1. Previously, scientists had searched for but missed the biological link between bone growth and bone remodeling - a natural give-and-take system that is crucial to skeletal health. The discovery is reported online in the journal Nature Medicine.

"For the first time, we've identified TGF beta-1 is a coupling mechanism for and bone formation," said Xu Cao, Ph.D., a professor in the UAB Department of Pathology and the study's senior author. ", Paget's , Camurati-Engelmann disease, and many more, all involve a bone coupling disorder to some degree."

Lead bone researcher Xu Cao, Ph.D., discusses TGF beta-1. Credit: UAB

Previous research has hinted at but failed to explain the coupling role of TGF beta-1 in skeletal health. Bone remodeling occurs through resorption, the body's way of removing old and brittle bone to avoid breaks and skeletal disorders. Bone formation happens as skeletons grow and as the body works to counter bone resorption by laying down new bone.

Cao and his fellow researchers studied mice with Camurati-Engelmann disease, a genetic disorder that causes haphazard bone formation and poor skeletal health. They found the presence of TGF beta-1 in the mice could balance bone resorption and and prevent fractures and worsening bone disease.

"The current treatment for many bone diseases does two things: it stimulates osteoblasts, which help form bone, and it inhibits osteoclasts, which trigger bone resorption. That's a coupling problem, and it can lead to minimal benefit for patients," Cao said. "There is no drug designed to balance bone resorption with formation, and hopefully we can help change that."

Discovered many years ago, TGF beta-1 is one of the most abundant cytokines in bone. It has been identified in lung, liver, kidney and other organs that undergo remodeling as a natural part of the growth and aging process. Understanding the TGF beta-1 role in bone may shed light on many other diseases that have roots in biological imbalance, Cao said.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Natural compound reduces signs of aging in healthy mice

October 27, 2016

Much of human health hinges on how well the body manufactures and uses energy. For reasons that remain unclear, cells' ability to produce energy declines with age, prompting scientists to suspect that the steady loss of efficiency ...

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Scientists develop 'world-first' 3-D mammary gland model

October 27, 2016

A team of researchers from Cardiff University and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has succeeded in creating a three-dimensional mammary gland model that will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.