Swedish researchers have found a way of utilising the positive effects of oestrogen in mice so that only the skeleton is acted on.
Oestrogen is the hormone that principally strengthens the bone mass in women, and it is also of significance for the skeleton in men.
Treatment of osteoporosis with oestrogens is, however, linked to serious side-effects such as breast cancer and blood clots.
In order to develop an oestrogen treatment that utilises the favourable effects of the oestrogen but not its side-effects, researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have analysed which parts of the oestrogen receptor is most important in enabling oestrogen to act on bone tissue and other tissues.
Oestrogen has recipient molecules known as oestrogen receptors, which cause the body to respond to oestrogen.
"This is the first study to analyse the significance of different parts of a particular type of oestrogen receptor through studies in mice. It enables us to differentiate the favourable effects of oestrogen in bone tissue from the adverse effects in other tissues," said PhD student Anna Borjesson.
This knowledge improves the prospects of being able to develop new, safer oestrogen treatments in the future.
"The development of special oestrogens that are tailored to bone and only affect a particular part of this type of oestrogen receptor may lead to a more targeted and effective treatment for osteoporosis with minimal side-effects," said Prof Claes Ohlsson.
The study is presented in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.