BGU Researchers Make Progress Towards a “Natural” Drug to Treat Osteoporosis

Photo : presse santé Photo : presse santé

A natural protein in the body can be tailored to function as a multi-targeting drug to treat osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become brittle and fragile, Ben-Gurion University (BGU) researchers have showed.

In a study, Dr. Niv Papo of the BGU Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the National Institute of Biotechnology (NIBN), Dr. Noam Levaot of the BGU Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and Ph.D. `student Yuval Zur showed that by targeting two cell receptors at the same time, the engineered proteins may provide relief for osteoporosis patients with fewer adverse side effects than current treatments.

“Osteoporosis is caused by a disturbance of the normal balance between the production of new bone tissue and the breakdown of old tissue by bone-removing cells, known as osteoclasts,” says Dr. Levaot.

Current drugs for osteoporosis work by completely shutting off this breakdown, known as bone absorption, for an uncontrolled duration. This increases the risk for adverse side effects, such as low blood calcium, atypical fractures, and destruction of the jaw bone.

“These problems – combined with digestive side effects – limit the utilization of currently available drugs and leads to poor patient compliance. Thus, despite the progress that has been made in treatment of patients with osteoporosis, there remains a significant demand for safer and more specific osteoporosis drugs with a prolonged biological effect,” Levaot adds.

The researchers said the drug is based on a natural human protein that has been modified to inhibit the bone destruction activity of osteoclasts by simultaneously targeting two receptors (communication sites) present on these cells. They showed that in an animal model for osteoporosis the drug is very specific to osteoclasts and can effectively prevent bone absorption.

“By demonstrating that a natural protein in the body can be modified to function as a drug with the ability to target two cell receptors at the same time, we believe that such modified proteins could provide the next generation of therapeutics with targeted activities and fewer adverse side effects. We are also confident that such modified protein compounds could also work on other diseases, including other bone diseases and certain types of cancer, particularly metastatic bone cancer,” says co-researcher Dr. Papo.

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) is the fastest growing research university in Israel. With 20,000 students, 4,000 staff and faculty members, and three campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat, BGU is an agent of change, fulfilling the vision of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s legendary first prime minister, who envisaged the future of Israel emerging from the Negev. The University is at the heart of Beer-Sheva’s transformation into the country’s cyber capital, where leading multinational corporations eagerly leverage BGU’s expertise to generate innovative R&D.

As it counts up to its 50th anniversary, BGU’s mission continues to be effecting change, locally, regionally and internationally. With faculties in Engineering Sciences; Health Sciences; Natural Sciences; Humanities and Social Sciences; Business and Management; and Desert Studies, BGU is a university with a conscience, active both on the frontiers of science and in the community.  Over a third of our students participate in one of the world’s most developed community action programs. The University is a recognized national and global leader in the fields of nanotechnology, cyber security, Israel studies, drylands agriculture, biotechnology, robotics, alternative energy, hydrology, social leadership, hotel and tourism management and much more, actively encouraging multi-disciplinary collaborations with government and industry, and nurturing entrepreneurship and innovation in all its forms.

Published in PLOS Biology

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