Drug hunters aim to rebuild our bones

08 Nov 2011 12:38:43.067

PA 347/11

Researchers at The University of Nottingham are taking the first steps towards developing new drugs which could end the suffering of thousands of patients affected by osteoporosis or other bone diseases and fractures.

With funding of £430,000 from the Medical Research Council (MRC) experts in the School of Pharmacy are to explore new ways of treating fragile bones and boost bone health by repressing a class of enzymes that stop our bones from growing and regenerating.

This ambitious project, led by Dr Sebastiaan Winkler, a lecturer in gene regulation, is based on many years of fundamental research. Dr Winkler said: “Because it is known that deadenylase enzymes are limiting the formation of new bone, we want to identify small-molecule inhibitors that prevent these enzymes from working and maximise the potential of these compounds in the treatment of bone disease. Little is known about these molecules so finding out more about them could be the first step towards new treatments for fragile bones and in addition have potential applications in bone repair and regeneration.”

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Women over the age of 45 spend more time in hospital due to osteoporosis than heart disease, diabetes or breast cancer. Common hip, wrist and spinal bone fractures due to decreased bone density impact significantly on life expectancy and are a huge financial cost to the NHS. Current drugs are not always effective and not all patients can tolerate the side effects.

Dr Winkler will be working with the School of Pharmacy’s Peter Fischer, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Director of the Centre for Biomeolecular Sciences (CBS). He is also an experienced ‘drug hunter’.  Professor Fischer said: “The basic research that has led to new insights into the regulation of bone growth now offers an exciting avenue for developing new treatments in an area of acute medical need.”

Around 50 per cent of women will suffer from fractures due to osteoporosis at some point in their lives. The condition will also affect 20 per cent of men. These problems will become even more common as the population ages.

This research will bring together expertise in the biochemistry and cell biology and medicinal chemistry and structural biology.

Dr Winkler said: “There is a clear and significant unmet clinical need for additional treatment options and innovative therapeutic approaches. In particular, oral small molecule drugs that could reduce bone degradation or increase bone formation would have great benefits by preventing premature death and enhancing the quality of life in the elderly as well as those affected by fragile bones at a younger age. These drugs could also have potential applications in bone repair and regeneration.”

— Ends —

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Sebastiaan Winkler, on +44 (0)115 846 8457,

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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