Scientists for the first time have clearly seen the molecular structure where a hormone related to osteoporosis attaches to the body, providing valuable insight into potential therapies.
World Health Organization statistics show that around 200 million people suffer from osteoporosis. Figures released by China’s National Health Commission showed that nearly 20 percent of Chinese people over age 50 suffer from the disease, and nearly half of the country’s population over age 50 had low bone mass.
Zhao Lihua, one of the leading researchers on the team and an associate professor from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the successful viewing at near-atomic level resolution enabled them to see the exact position of the hormone as it attaches to the receptor, as well as the corresponding reactions.
“It will allow scientists to screen small-molecule compounds that fit this exact position,” she said, which could help researchers develop oral drugs. Currently, such medicines can only be injected.
Patients who suffer from osteoporosis need to take medicines simulating the hormone to stimulate the hormone receptor, and thereby regulate calcium levels in the body.
Zhao said the institute has started screening such small-molecule compounds.
An important factor hindering researchers from developing oral medicines has been that they were not sure exactly how the drug targets the receptor and what reactions the receptor will have, researchers said.
A paper about the study conducted by Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica in collaboration with researchers from Zhejiang University School of Basic Medical Sciences and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the United States was published on the website of US-based journal Science on Friday.
“Diseases related to the receptor involved in the research affect tens of millions of families in the country,” said Wang Mingwei, a researcher at the institute.