Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Osteoporosis – new approach to treatment

All over the world, researchers are working on new treatments for osteoporosis.

One potential target is a protein whose structures have now been decoded in detail by scientists from the University of Würzburg. The scientific journal Plos One covers their work in its latest issue.

One in three women and one in five men in the world over the age of 50 currently have excessively low bone density according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. They therefore carry a significantly increased risk of suffering a bone fracture. The pathological decrease in the density of bone substance, also known as osteoporosis, often develops unnoticed. In healthy people, bone-building and bone-degrading processes occur in equilibrium, whereas degradation predominates in osteoporosis patients.

Sights set on the protein sclerostin

It is no wonder that scientists and pharmaceutical companies are working hard to develop new treatments for osteoporosis. One possible target is the protein sclerostin, which plays a pivotal role in what happens inside bones. “Sclerostin inhibits an important signaling pathway found in bone cells,” explains Professor Thomas Müller. The structural biologist from the Julius von Sachs Institute at the University of Würzburg has spent a long time working with this protein. In 2009, for example, he managed to decode its three-dimensional structure.

Müller was able to show that the protein is composed of three loops that emanate from a central knot. The first and third loops together form a defined structure, while the second loop is highly flexible. “The latter region in particular appears to be primarily responsible for the bone growth inhibitory effect,” says Müller.

Sclerostin inhibits bone growth

Sclerostin acts on the so-called Wnt signaling pathway in the body. This pathway plays a major role in ensuring that bone tissue remains stable. “Wnt proteins form a complex with two types of receptor at the cell surface; this then activates genes that are important for bone growth,” explains Müller. Sclerostin intervenes in this process and, in so doing, prevents activation of the Wnt signaling pathway, thereby generally inhibiting bone growth. “So, if we can block sclerostin using antibodies, for example, it will be possible to restore bone density even in already advanced osteoporosis,” says the scientist.

Now Thomas Müller and his team have succeeded in determining the structures in the sclerostin loop structure that are important for binding the protein to its receptor. Their achievement is reported on in the latest issue of the scientific journal Plos One. In addition, the team has shown that a change to the central knot also inhibits sclerostin. “Our studies reveal that the architecture of sclerostin is also important to the biological activity of the protein,” says Müller.

Building on these results, the scientists have already been able to develop an antibody that neutralizes sclerostin in collaboration with the company AbD Serotec. Its impact on bone growth is currently being examined.

Also helpful with excessive bone growth

This new knowledge concerning the way in which sclerostin works is not just useful for developing a treatment for osteoporosis. It is also conceivable that it may be helpful in the reverse direction, so to speak, namely for treating the bone diseases sclerosteosis and Van Buchem’s syndrome. “People afflicted by these very rare hereditary diseases form too little sclerostin or none at all and therefore suffer from excessive bone growth,” says Müller. In these patients, the bone mass grows so much that it wreaks nerve damage. Since the skull is also affected, loss of sight and hearing are common consequences in the absence of surgery; in extreme cases, excessive intracranial pressure can even lead to death.

With the new findings that show which areas of sclerostin are responsible for its effect and how these must be structured, scientists can now also design peptides that have a sclerostin-like effect, explains Müller. A “minimized” peptide-based sclerostin could represent a new, non-surgical treatment option for sclerosteosis and Van Buchem patients that would significantly improve their quality of life.

Mutational Analysis of Sclerostin Shows Importance of the Flexible Loop and the Cystine-Knot for Wnt-Signaling Inhibition. Verena Boschert, Maarten van Dinther, Stella Weidauer, Katharina van Pee, Eva-Maria Muth, Peter ten Dijke, Thomas D. Mueller. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081710


Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller,
T: +49 (0)931 31-89207,

Gunnar Bartsch | idw
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>