Scientists have uncovered a significant new link in the chain of immune system events through which estrogen prevents bone loss and that contribute to bone loss when estrogen is deficient. Through research in mice, the scientists discovered that an immune signaling molecule called type b transforming growth factor (TGFb) is responsible for a cascade of events that leads estrogen to prevent bone loss. When TGFb signaling in T cells is blocked, the bone-sparing effects of estrogen are lost. The findings could lead to new therapeutic approaches for preventing bone loss. Results of the research were published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of October 25.
The studys senior author was Roberto Pacifici, MD, Herndon professor of medicine and director of the Division of Endocrinology at Emory University School of Medicine. Lead author was Emory research associate Yuhao Gao, PhD.
Previous research has shown that bone loss due to estrogen deficiency is caused by the overexpansion of immune T cells. T cells are known to produce a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which increases the formation of osteoclasts in rodents and humans. Osteoclasts are cells that help cause the absorption and removal of bone.
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