One drug for obesity and osteoporosis

A single strategy could one day be used to treat both osteoporosis and obesity, which share many physiological mechanisms, US researchers have found.

They found that a better understanding of links between the diseases could lead to drugs being developed to treat both.

Clinical evidence shows links between the regulation of fat and bone, including the finding that obese patients who lose weight rapidly suffer declines in bone density greater than reduced skeletal load alone would predict. In addition, women with more body fat during the menopause have reduced rates of bone resorption.

They also cited findings from laboratory studies showing that fat and bone cells both come from the same stem cell type in bone marrow. Obesity and osteoporosis are both the result of the normal regulation of these stem cells becoming disrupted.

Animal studies have shown that regulation of mature fat and bone cells is also linked. Leptin, the hormone produced by fat cells that affects appetite, also causes bone mass to decrease.

The researchers said there was clear evidence of interactions between the body's bone and fat composition. More research could lead to clinical applications to tackle both diseases.

Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology 2006; 2: 35-43.

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