Indian scientists discover drug for osteoporosis

Indian scientists discover drug for osteoporosis

A plant chemical may help in bone formation in middle-aged women, who suffer from post-menopausal osteoporosis, one of the commonest ailments afflicting thousands of women and some men as well.

Indian scientists have found a chemical in Chinese and Indian medicinal plants, including kingshuk (butea monosperma) and red clover (trifolium pretense) that can be used to grow bones in rats. A 12–week treatment in osteoporosis-affected mice showed promising results. “The chemical, formononetin, increases new bone formation. It increases bone mass apart from preventing bone loss. Being a natural phyto-estrogen (plant chemical), it is more cost effective than commercially available therapy and devoid of side effects,” Divya Singh, a scientist at Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, who found its bone-formation effect told Deccan Herald.

Osteoporosis is a disease of porous bone, in which bone mineral density decreases with age creating gaping holes in bones, which reduces bone strength.

This not only enhances the risk of fracture but make life difficult for elderly women because of the pain it creates in moving the limbs. Going by an estimate carried out by doctors in a private hospital in Delhi, osteoporosis is expected to impact over 36 million patients in India by 2013. It is the single largest cause of spinal fractures as 83 per cent of all spinal fractures occurring due to Osteoporosis.

The conventional allopathic treatment is supplementation of estrogen hormone, which is not preferred by many doctors due to increased risk of breast and uterine cancer, even though a short term (three to five years) course is suggested often.

The CDRI research offers a safer alternative. “Our study demonstrates that daily oral administration of formo in adult rats restores bone architecture by enhancing bone formation. It is safer and lacks the harmful side effects associated with traditional hormonal therapy,” Singh and her colleagues at CDRI reported in the latest issue of the journal “Menopause” published by the North American Menopause Society.

Derived from plants, phyto-estrogens offer an alternative to conventional and synthetic formulations.

They are structurally similar to natural estrogens but are milder than women’s intrinsic estrogen.

The uniqueness of the CDRI study is that it demonstrates formononetin reverses bone loss by increasing bone density in rat model.

“What set this chemical apart is its action because unlike other plant-derived estrogens or similar compounds, formononetin appeared to facilitate bone rebuilding,” said James K Pru, at the Centre for Reproductive Biology in Washington State University, in the editorial of the journal.

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