Rodent of the Week: A different look at osteoporosis


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Understanding exactly how bone is lost has turned out to be more complex than anyone expected. A new study even suggests that stopping the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the gut may keep bones healthier.

Previous research suggested that serotonin may interfere with bone formation. In the new study, researchers at Columbia University found they could cure mice with osteoporosis by giving them an investigational drug called LP533401 that inhibits serotonin production in the gut. While stopping serotonin synthesis in the stomach, it did not appear to reduce levels in the brain.


The idea that serotonin has a role in parts of the body other than the brain is new and somewhat startling. But, according to the authors of the new study, 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut and only 5% is found in the brain (where it plays a big role in mood). Based on the new finding, researchers will investigate whether compounds that block serotonin in the gut can help build new bone. Most osteoporosis drugs on the market help stop the loss of bone but are not as effective in building bone.

The study is published in the Feb. 7 issue of Nature Medicine.

-- Shari Roan