New Research: This Protein Prevents Rapid Bone Loss

A recent study published on March 7, 2018 in the Journal of Dental Research shows that a protein called tristetraprolin (TPP) has a crucial and overlooked role in the maintenance of bone density in an animal model.

TTP is a protein well known to be involved in the regulation of inflammation in the body. However, this study is the first time TTP has been linked to bone health.


The Study

The researchers, from the University at Buffalo, discovered that when a specific gene responsible for production of TTP was removed from healthy mice that they experienced rapid deterioration of bone health. The resulting bone density was similar to that of much older mice.

Conducted over a span of nine months, the study found that mice who had the TTP producing gene removed experienced a whopping 20 percent decrease in oral bone!

This means that TTP is acting as an inhibitor to the break-down of bones.


TTP's Role in Bone Health

Keith Kirkwood, DDS, PhD, is the lead author of the study as well as professor in the Department of Oral Biology in University of Buffalo's School of Dental Medicine.

He explains that "TTP is the brake on the system. Without it, inflammation and bone loss would go unchecked."

"We don't know all of the reasons why TTP expression decreases with age. So, understanding the factors behind its expression and relationship with bone loss is the first step toward designing therapeutic approaches."

These results could have dramatic implication in the treatment of degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis in humans, especially aging populations.


Osteoporosis: An Emerging Epidemic

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a decline in bone mass and density which results in weak and brittle bones. The disease already impacts over half of everyone over 50 years of age! This accounts for about 44 million Americans.

Furthermore, it is estimated that by the year 2020 over 60 million American will be impacted by this devastating degenerative bone disease.

These statistics show why organizations like the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in the National Institutes of Health are willing to fund this kind of research to help develop therapeutic modalities capable of addressing the baffling frequency with which this condition is developed.


Future Research

Researchers are already planning a longer and more in-depth examination of TTP and its role in bone health. Dr. Kirkwood is arranging to extend this upcoming research over a two-year period in order to attain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind their findings.

Professor Kirkwood is partnering with Dr. Kenneth Seldeen, PhD and Dr Bruce Troen, MD. They plan on investigating how TPP affects both overall bone health as well as oral and craniofascial bone health.

We can only hope that Kirkwood and his team are able to identify the mechanism through which TTP prevents bone loss so that the millions of people suffering from osteoporosis and other related diseases can finally find relief and be able to live long, healthy, and happy lives.


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