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Hormone injection fights bone death

3 May 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

lab–rabbit.jpgBone death, a side effect of steroid medication, could be prevented according to new studies using rabbits.

Patients receiving the steroid depomedrol, which is used to treat conditions such as ulcerative colitis, asthma and kidney disease, can suffer a reduction in bone density. Eventually this can cause severe osteoporosis where bones become brittle or osteonecrosis-the loss of blood supply to the bone cells, resulting in their death.

Scientists studied the hip bones of two groups of rabbits, both given doses of depomedrol. One group was also given a direct injection of hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). The group that received ACTH produced a larger amount of growth proteins and had significantly lower bone cell death than the control group. Researchers found that the proteins stimulated the production of new blood vessels. Consequently the bone cells received a greater amount of blood and were able to survive.

The next challenge for scientists is to establish whether this hormone will have the same effect in other bones. Currently, hip replacement is the only treatment for osteonecrosis in the hip. Researchers hope that the discovery of the therapeutic potential of this hormone will lead to a more viable treatment option.