Jun 9, 2016
Osteoporosis: What the Latest Research Says
It is believed that within the next five years, half of Americans aged 51 and older will have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become increasingly fragile as they lose density. It is an illness that comes with aging and a lack of vitamins.
For a long time, there was no medical process used to predict osteoporosis. It was simply diagnosed after someone broke a bone. New research has led to the development of a number of new treatments, some of which can identify when a patient is developing osteoporosis.
The Current Drugs Don’t Work
There is a general consensus in the medical community that the current drugs that treat osteoporosis aren’t very effective at all. Australian researcher Gustaco Duque has said that by the year 2050, the amount of hip fractures will triple.
This belief has triggered new research that is leading to some promising new treatments of osteoporosis. Some of these treatments are new drugs which could radically aid those suffering with osteoporosis. There are also new devices being developed that can scan bones more accurately to help predict, evaluate and prevent the disease.
DEXA Scans are Ineffective
Experts are starting to re-think how osteoporosis is diagnosed. Traditionally, doctors would do a DEXA scan to evaluate the bones of your skeleton. The problem people are starting to grapple with is that a DEXA scan doesn’t show the internal condition of bones.
In the latest studies, researchers have been trying to use different techniques so that they can see inside a patient’s bones. With enough analysis and study, medical experts think that they can do a much better job of identifying patients who are at a higher risk of having a fracture.
One such method to predict osteoporosis is a CT scan, which can be used to study a person’s spine or hips. While CT scans have been around for a while, they have not been used to predict osteoporosis until recently. The CT scan creates a 3d diagram of the bone and can break the image down into component parts, measure bone density and calculate the strength of the skeleton overall. The latest studies show that a CT scan is a more thorough and accurate way to evaluate osteoporosis patients.
High-Resolution Peripheral Quantitative Tomography
This is a very new device that carries a bit of risk with it. It utilizes a large amount of radiation, which means that it shouldn’t be used to scan bones near vital organs. It can be used to study wrist or ankle bones. These scanners have a very high resolution that allows the doctor to study individual structural components, giving them a larger amount of information to draw from.
These peripheral scanners have not yet been approved for clinical use. It is expected that they will be soon and that they will cost about the same as a DEXA scan. The jury is out on how well the peripheral scanner can evaluate fracture risks, but so far it is looking good.
At one time, osteoporosis was treated with bisphosphonate drugs. New research seems to indicate that patients aren’t getting much results from them. Some people had almost no increase in bone density whatsoever. At the same time, it did greatly reduce the risk of a fracture.
It seems that what these bisphosphonates are doing is slowing down the degeneration of the bones much more than they are building bone density. Women in particular see a great increase in skeletal deterioration as they age. The body is actually removing bone and replacing it, but it does so in a chaotic order that leaves the skeleton in a weakened state while there is work in progress.
It has become apparent that this bone remodeling process is strongly linked to osteoporosis. If doctors can detect bone remodeling, then they can predict who will develop osteoporosis and who won’t.
With that in mind, researchers have created biomarkers. Biomarkers are devices that can measure bone remodeling by evaluation blood or urine. There are already biomarkers in existence, but none that are viable for use in a doctor’s office. New biomarkers are being developed that can better evaluate bone remodeling, which is thought to be the real reason that the bones get more fragile as people age.
The High Bone Mass Drug
It was recently discovered that some people are born with a bone density that is much higher than that of the average person. These people will sometimes get into car accidents and come out with no broken bones at all. Many of them never suffer a bone break in their entire lives. New research shows that these people are producing large quantities of LRP5, a protein that is linked to bone maintenance.
Doctors and researchers are studying this gene in the hopes that they can create new treatments that can emulate what the gene does. Right now this drug is in the testing phase and it could take years before it comes out.
Doctors are also looking into using amped up versions of vitamin D supplements to treat osteoporosis. The latest studies show that this type of drug will stop bone loss and promote the formation of new, stronger bones.
One such drug, called 2MD, is in the testing phase right now. 2MD has had stellar results and many believe that it is going to be a very big deal if and when it is released. They also think that because 2MD is based on vitamin D, there won’t be any harmful side effects. Out of all of the new treatments being developed, this seems to be the one that has the most promise.
This drug might soon be approved for public consumption. Denosumab is an injection that a patient would receive two times per year. It affects a protein in the body known as RANK ligand which controls which cells break down the bones. The injections help stem off the cells that contribute to osteoporosis.
Australian medical experts have had some success in using this acid to increase bone production. This drug focuses on building up the bones rather than trying to block degeneration.
Treating Osteoporosis Right Now
For right now, those who have osteoporosis can fight it just by eating certain foods that are high in calcium. That includes milk, broccoli, tofu, nuts, bread and fish.
Treating osteoporosis is a struggle. It does seem that within the next few years, new treatments will emerge that can help fight and possibly eliminate this condition altogether. Until then, remain vigilant and be careful.