Bacteria-derived compound may stimulate bone growth in osteoporotic patients, scientists say

A strain of bacteria that live on coral reefs off the coast of Key Largo, Florida, may contribute to the development of medications that will encourage bone growth and inhibit osteoporosis, researchers have announced.

A study published in the journal ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters pointed to largazole, a compound derived from cyanobacteria, as a chemical stimulator of osteogenesis, which is the process by which bone is created in the body.

While the strain of cyanobacteria in question, which is of the genus Symploca, can be found off the coast of Kay Largo, this form of microorganism lives in nearly all habitable environments. Given the prefix "cyano-" due to their bluish coloring, these bacteria use sunlight to create their own energy.

They also produce a chemical called largazole, which has been found to impede cancer cell growth in humans, according to a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Largazole acts as a histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDI) when used on human cells. Histone deacetylase uncoils cell DNA from around histones molecules, allowing that DNA to be transcribed and expressed. When blocked by HDIs, particular cells may no longer perform their "duty," which in the case of cancer cells is to grow without limit.

In the most recent study, researchers discovered that this inhibition of gene expression may be used to prevent bone from being resorbed by osteoclasts, which are specialized human cells that break down bone minerals.

In a healthy adult, osteoclasts function at roughly the same rate as osteoblasts, which cause bone growth. However, an individual with osteoporosis is likely to have an osteoclast-favoring imbalance between these two cell functions, resulting in much more bone breakdown than bone growth.

The newest study's authors noted that largazole not only appears to inhibit bone loss but also stimulate bone growth through a process not yet understood.

When mixed with collagen and calcium phosphate, the compound even contributed to more rapid healing of bone fractures when infected into laboratory mice.

The team concluded that further investigation should be done into largazole-based treatments for osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis affects 55 percent of Americans over the age of 50, often severely reducing their quality of life, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
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