There may be a breakthrough in the treatment of osteoporosis, which is a bone disease that commonly affects women. In osteoporosis, bones become increasingly weaker with passing years, more so during menopausal years. This increases the risk of fractures and breaks. There is currently no cure for osteoporosis, and treatments focus on reducing the risk of fractures.
It is believed that as estrogen declines in menopausal women, osteoporosis risk increases. This made researchers want to look further into the role of estrogen. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Los Angeles, ran a series of studies to learn about estrogen in the brain.
The researchers were primarily interested in how estrogen’s activity in the brain alters metabolism during different life stages. Specifically, they focused on the function of estrogen-specific neurons in the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that links the nervous system to the endocrine system.
The role of the hypothalamus mainly focuses on regulating metabolic processes, such as temperature control, sleep, hunger, fatigue, and circadian cycles.
The researchers blocked the effects of estrogen in the brain in animals and found the animals gained weight and were less active. The extra weight was linked to an increase in bone mass, which increased by 800 percent.
Researcher Stephanie Correa explained, “I was immediately struck by the size of the effect. The two groups didn’t overlap at all, which I had never seen. We knew right away it was a game changer and a new, exciting direction with potential applications for improving women’s health.”
When the bone density of the animals was taken, the researchers noted they were quite strong. In fact, the researchers noted they have never seen bones this strong before.
The researchers suggest that they may have uncovered a different pathway to improve bone density and strength among older women.
The researchers explained that after puberty, the role of estrogen in the brain changes from bone growth to other things, such as reproduction. This could be a reason why women are at higher risk for bone diseases as they age.
Additional research is needed to explore further the role of estrogen on bone density, but researchers are hopeful that they may have stepped upon a breakthrough in osteoporosis treatment.
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