Right now, medications and vitamins only help to slow bone loss.However, a new compound could actually regrow bone and help patients regain strength.
For 15 years, Bonnie Goldsmith has watched osteoporosis rob her of her strength. Researchers at Duke University are testing a drug that, for the first time, may help strengthen bones.
"We have very good medicine which can stop bone loss and prevent fractures, but the hope is we can truly build bone," said Dr. Tom Weber, a Duke endocrinologist.
For Goldsmith, the decision to join the study was obvious.
"I thought this would be my last resort," she said.
The drug is a man-made version of the parathyroid hormone, the hormone in the body that regulates calcium.
"It appears to build bone by allowing the bone-forming cells to live long and make more bone," said Weber.
Patients inject a daily dose of the drug into their skin. Over the next year, doctors hope to learn just how well it works.
"I think the initial uses will be for people who have more severe osteoporosis and fractures. There is the potential that it may have a preventive role in treatment," said Weber.
For Goldsmith and others with osteoporosis, getting back just a little of the bone they have lost would be a major improvement.
"That would be wonderful. I'd be like a new person," she said.
Duke researchers also hope to find out how much bone density the compound can restore. There have not been enough long-term studies to determine if there is a limit.
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While women are four times more likely than men to develop the disease, men also suffer from osteoporosis and bone loss.
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