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Mater Research has shed new light on the role of the specialised immune cells osteal macrophages (osteomacs) in the often-debilitating bone degenerative disease osteoporosis – and provided a potential target for new treatments and drugs.
The study results have been published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
Principal investigator and Mater Researcher, Dr Lena Batoon, said the pre-clinical study provided the first evidence that osteomacs are increased within bones during osteoporosis-associated bone loss.
“We’ve shown previously that these specialised immune cells support the functions of bone-forming cells to promote bone health and regeneration so this discovery we made through this research was unexpected,” Lena said.
“We have now revealed that osteomacs support the process of bone breakdown that underpins bone fragility in osteoporosis.”
Osteoporosis is a common, painful, and life-threatening condition that is often poorly managed, with low diagnosis and treatment rates.
Osteoporosis-associated fractures become common in people in their 50’s, with nine million new fractures reported worldwide each year, and are associated with significantly increased morbidity and mortality rates.
Lena said improved treatments and preventative strategies for the disease would only be made possible by improving understanding of the disease mechanisms underlying osteoporosis.
“We’re excited by our research findings because we’re advancing knowledge about this insidious disease,” she said.
“Through multiple studies our research team has led the world in understanding the role of osteomacs in bone formation, resorption and overall bone health, which has identified them an attractive target cell for potential therapeutics to prevent or reverse osteoporosis associated bone fragility.”
Lena has also recently published a study reporting early phase development of a therapeutic approach to enhance healing in normal and osteoporotic fracture. The drug tested is a growth factor for increasing osteomac number and function and the pre-clinical study results are extremely promising.
“There is currently no broadly applicable pro-regenerative drug for osteoporotic fractures and this research is trying to address this gap in treatment options for reducing the impact of osteoporotic fragility fracture,” she said.
Lena is continuing her research under the supervision of Professor Allison Pettit who leads the Bones and Immunology Research Group at Mater Research Institute-UQ and is the Director of Biomedical Research for Mater Research.
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