New therapy could protect bones of diabetics

Organic compound offsets drugs that make bones weaker …

(EMMA YASINSKI, SCIENCE) A drug that can reverse diabetes and obesity in mice may have an unexpected benefit: strengthening bones.

Picric acid is an organic compound which has been used as an antiseptic and as a treatment for burns, malaria, herpes, and smallpox. PHOTO: Manuel Almagro Rivas, CC

Experiments with a compound called TNP (also known as picric acid), which researchers often use to study obesity and diabetes, show that in mice the therapy can promote the formation of new bone.

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That’s in contrast to many diabetes drugs currently in wide use that leave patients’ bones weaker. If TNP has similar effects in humans, it may even be able to stimulate bone growth after fractures or prevent bone loss due to aging or disuse.

As more and more patients successfully manage diabetes with drugs that increase their insulin sensitivity, doctors and researchers have observed a serious problem: The drugs seem to decrease the activity of cells that produce bone, leaving patients prone to fractures and osteoporosis.

“There are millions and millions of people that have osteoporosis [with or without diabetes], and it’s not something we can cure,” says Sean Morrison, a stem cell researcher at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. “We need new agents that promote bone formation.”

Morrison and his colleagues have shown that a high-fat diet causes mice to develop bones that contain more fat and less bone. The diet increased the levels of leptin—a hormone produced by fat cells that usually signals satiety in the brain—in the bone marrow, which promoted the development of fat cells instead of bone cells. That suggests that nutrition has a direct effect on the balance of bone and fat in the bone marrow. READ THE FULL STORY AT SCIENCE.COM