New study reveals promising osteoporosis treatment

Calcium phosphate-based supplement improves bone strength and thickness

A New York University College of Dentistry professor has developed a calcium phosphate-based supplement that -- even at low concentrations -- significantly improves bone strength and thickness without the side effects of many current drug treatments. Dr. Racquel Z. LeGeros, a Professor of Biomaterials and Biomimetics and of Implant Dentistry, presented her research on the supplement at the American Association for Dental Research annual meeting on March 9, 2006.

Current FDA-approved pharmaceutical-based osteoporosis treatments, such as bisphosphonate drugs and hormone therapies, do not effectively repair bone that has already been lost. In fact, bisphosphonates have been shown to actually inhibit bone redevelopment. Many of these treatments also have serious side effects, including increasing the risk of heart disease, strokes, and breast cancer.

But the supplement Dr. LeGeros developed by combining magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), and fluoride (F) ions in a calcium-phosphate (CaP) matrix does not have the side effects of the current pharmaceutical-based treatments. Perhaps more importantly, a Mg/Zn/F-CaP supplement would be inexpensive to produce and would not require FDA approval. Dr. LeGeros' formulation could be available to market as an over-the-counter supplement, pending patent approval.

In her study, Dr. LeGeros investigated the effect in rats of Mg/Zn/F-CaP ion combinations on several bone properties: strength, thickness, quality, and composition of bones.

Dr. LeGeros divided a sample of 72 (36 males, 36 females) adult Sprague-Dawley rats (average weight, 160g) into six groups receiving the following diets: control; mineral deficiency-induced osteoporosis (MD); MD supplemented with Mg-CaP; Zn-CaP; F-CaP; and Mg/Zn/F-CaP. Each supplement was 0.6% of the MD diet. The post-mortem examination of the femurs in the MD Mg/Zn/F-CaP group showed that even this small amount of Mg/Zn/F-CaP supplement substantially improved bone strength and thickness. More studies will be needed, ultimately using human trials to confirm the results.

Dr. LeGeros' paper, Effect of Mg/Zn/F-CaP Supplements on Bone Properties: Phase 1, describes initial results of her research, which is funded by a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health.

Osteoporosis is a silent, progressive, and debilitating disease characterized by bone loss and the thinning of cortical bone leading to bone fracture. In the United States, the disease affects an estimated 10 million older adults, resulting in more than 1.5 million fractures annually; the overwhelming majority of those afflicted with osteoporosis (80%) are women.

Dr. LeGeros said future research may also focus on using Mg/Zn/F-CaP compounds to repair fractures and periodontal bone defects.

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For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. LeGeros, please contact Christopher James, 212.998.6876 or christopher.james@nyu.edu


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