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Major progress in the fight against osteoporosis thanks to new treatment

Teams in Boston are the first to combine treatments which stop cells that attack bones, while also helping to grow new bone.

Image: Osteoporosis image via Shutterstock

A NEW COMBINATION of various techniques has achieved the best success rate yet at combating osteoporosis, US researchers have said.

A team in Massachusetts says it is the first in the world to have successfully combined drug and therapy treatments to reduce the presence of the condition in post-menopausal women.

Previously, only one of the options could be used, with attempts to combine the approaches being unsuccessful.

Osteoporosis is a condition where the body does not produce bone cells as quickly as it should – meaning the normal degeneration of bone over time is not countered by the construction of new cells, leaving the bones porous and brittle.

The Lancet reports that the team in Boston measured the presence of the condition in a group of 94 women, who were on various combinations of the two treatments, at regular intervals over a year – and found that bone density in the hip, spine and neck was significantly improved where both could be used.

Most drugs currently used to treat the condition are anti-resorptive – blocking the cells (known as ‘osteoclasts’) which attack and break down the human body’s bones.

The alternative treatment, which stimulated the creation of new bone, focused on increasing the activity of ‘osteoblasts’ – a different type of cell which helps to construct new skeletal material.

Previous attempts to combine the two have been unsuccessful because drugs inhibiting the first type of cell have also inhibited the second – but in the right setting and combination, the two types of treatment could be used to provide a better outcome than either would offer on their own.

The authors of the study said more work needed to be done to evaluate the long-term effects of the treatments – particularly because the bone-creation therapies can only be used by patients for two years at maximum.

However, the development could be good news for the 300,000 Irish people who are thought to suffer from the condition to some degree.

Read: 10 ways that drinking too much coffee can destroy your body

More: Scientists discover link between HIV drug and osteoporosis

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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