UAMS Osteoporosis Findings Published in Nature Communications

 The findings of a UAMS research team led by Maria Almeida, Ph.D., back row, center, recently were published in Nature Communications. Other members of her team are: back row, left to right, Ha-Neui Kim, Almeida, Aaron Warren; center, Li Han; front row, left to right, Shoshana Bartell, Julie Crawford, Serra Ucer.

June 11, 2014 | A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) research team has found that reducing the levels of reactive oxygen chemicals in certain cells can increase bone mass and eventually may lead to new treatments for osteoporosis.


Findings from a research effort led by Maria Almeida, Ph.D., an associate professor and researcher in the UAMS Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, are published in the April edition of the scientific journal Nature Communications.

The research team includes Stavros Manolagas, M.D., Ph.D., director of the center; Robert Jilka, Ph.D.; Elena Ambrogini, M.D.; Robert Weinstein, M.D.; Haibo Zhao, M.D., Ph.D.; Charles  O’Brien, Ph.D.; Shoshana Bartell; Ha-Neui Kim; Li Han; and Serra Ucer.

The researchers used several mouse models with modified proteins so osteoclasts, the cells responsible for the resorption of bone, generate less reactive oxygen chemicals, also called reactive oxygen species. Bone resorption occurs when osteoclast cells break down the mineralized matrix to allow for old bone to be replaced with new one.

“We’ve shown that reactive oxygen species are important for the formation of osteoclasts and to control bone mass,” Almeida said. “Our findings indicate that if you can lower reactive oxygen species, then you can increase bone mass because you decrease the resorption of the bone.”

In the next phase of her research, Almeida and the other researchers will seek to learn more about how the reactive oxygen species control bone cells. Using antioxidants to reduce the presence of the species in osteoclasts can have negative side effects on other cells in the body. A better understanding of how reactive oxygen species work may enable future researchers to devise better treatments for osteoporosis with fewer side effects.

“We are looking for something that will work besides antioxidants that most of the cells can tolerate and that will still work to reduce these reactive oxygen species — a pill you can take to stop aging,” Almeida said. “During the aging process, common disease mechanisms can affect different organs like the brain, heart, liver and bones. We want to understand these common mechanisms so that by using one specific drug, it’s possible to treat many of these different things that occur with aging — for example, osteoporosis, arteriosclerosis and neural degeneration.”

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