NASA sends mice into space for a unique study on osteoporosis.
Astronauts lose bone mass while traveling in zero gravity, and a new sclerostin-blocking molecule may help to change the treatment landscape for bone loss.
Sclerostin production increases during prolonged periods of inactivity causing the protein to slow bone growth and in turn cause or worsen osteoporosis.
Amgen, the company working on this new osteoporosis vaccine is the sponsor of this study, in conjunction with NASA, to determine whether mice will lose bone mineral density after an injection is given prior to space flight. One half of the mice will not be treated with this vaccine and the other half will, hoping to shed light on this new approach to stop and prevent bone loss.
In Amgen's study, the vaccine was given every three months on individuals with osteoporosis and the participants will be evaluated at the end of their research. The administration of this vaccine on mice, in space, will help to further this theory and research that this inhibited protein can prevent the normal bone destruction seen in astronauts, the testing mice, and give us an idea if this will be helpful for those who are wheelchair bound, have a medical disorder that prevents normal weight bearing exercise and other forms of bone and muscle disuse osteoporosis. According to Amgen, this testing is in its third and final stage, before it goes through the necessary approval process through the FDA. This vaccine is different than the other bone medications currently being used, because it stimulates new bone growth, rather than slowing bone loss like most antiresorptives; for example, Boniva, Reclast, Actonel and Fosamax. This vaccine bears a similarity to Forteo, by Eli Lily, since it's the only other bone medication currently on the market that actually stimulates new bone growth. The dosing regime will also be more convenient, at every three months, compared to the daily, weekly, bi-monthly and monthly oral medications. We also have Reclast given once a year and biennially and Boniva on a quarterly basis, but as mentioned, these drugs only slow bone loss and don't have the ability to form new bone as the sclerostin-blocking vaccine does.
Osteoporosis caused from bone disuse has been a concern for a long time and we need to find a way to combat this type of bone degradation.
The results of this testing will help those with rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injuries, amputees with limited weight bearing abilities and hopefully all of us whether our bone loss is from skeletal disuse or normal age-related forms of osteoporosis.
Individuals lose approximately 1% of their bone a year and those with more severe bone loss can lose much more. Astronauts, by contrast, lose 1-2% of their bone mineral density for each month they are in space, making this a challenging problem. Imagine when our astronauts have to spend three years in space; this bone loss will be substantial.