Researchers find new, low-risk estrogen treatment for osteoporosis

Hormone therapy for osteoporosis can entail some serious side effects, but scientists in Sweden have announced the development of an estrogen-based technique that specifically targets bone tissue.

In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Gothenburg reported that minimizing the function of certain estrogen receptors may help direct estrogen therapy toward bones rather than allowing it to affect the entire body.

The team used laboratory rodents to test this theory, injecting each with estradiol, which is the primary estrogen hormone found in humans.

Researchers then monitored the response of estrogen receptor-alpha (ERa) - the body's main bone-related mediator of the hormone - to the estradiol. In particular, the group wanted to know whether the inhibition of one of the ERa's two activation functions, known as AF-1 and AF-2, would redirect estrogen to specific tissues.

The team found that mice who naturally lacked ERa AF-1 experienced the bone-strengthening benefits of hormone therapy with few or no negative effects in their hepatic, uterine or thymic cells.

Scientists concluded that future hormone treatments for postmenopausal osteoporotic women may be able to circumvent certain AFs in estrogen receptors, thereby increasing estrogen therapy's bone-targeting ability.

Hormone therapy is a relatively common treatment for women with osteoporosis, but its side effects can be debilitating. The National Institutes of Health states that women who use estrogen-based medications for bone loss may have an increased risk of blood clots and cancer.

Likewise, starting estrogen therapy more than 10 years after menopause has been shown to boost a woman's likelihood of heart disease.

Other pharmacological treatments exist for osteoporosis, including bisphosphonates, selective estrogen receptor modulators, calcitonin and synthetic parathyroid hormone, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Likewise, healthcare experts recommend that mature women engage in regular exercise and take calcium and vitamin D supplements in order to prevent or reduce the severity of bone loss.

An estimated 8 million American women have osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. 
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