Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Small Protein May Have Big Role In Making More Bone And Less Fat

‘The pathways are parallel, and the idea is if you can somehow disrupt the fat production pathway, you will get more bone,’ says Dr. Xingming Shi, bone biologist at the Medical College of Georgia Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics. He's found the short-acting protein GILZ appears to make this desirable shift and wants to better understand how it does it with the long-term goal of targeted therapies for osteoporosis, obesity and maybe more. ‘Osteoporosis and obesity are two major public health problems, but people have no idea whether they have a connection,’ says Dr. Shi. Bone and fat do have a common source: both are derived from mesynchymal stem cells. Bone loss and fat gain also tend to happen with age and with use of the powerful, anti-inflammatory steroid hormones glucocorticoids. ‘When you age, your bone marrow microenvironment changes; the balance between the bone and fat pathway is broken,’ says Dr. Shi, a faculty member in the MCG Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies. To restore a healthier balance of bone and fat production, sustained GILZ action is needed. ‘When you permanently express GILZ, cells cannot differentiate into fat cells. Instead, you increase bone formation. People like this idea,’ says Dr. Shi, who has watched the mesynchymal stem cell production shift.”

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