Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoporosis Health Center

Font Size

Osteoporosis: On the Cutting Edge of Bone Health

Advances in research are changing the way osteoporosis experts think about this widespread disease.

Understanding Bone Remodeling continued...

Now that they understand the importance of bone remodeling, osteoporosis experts are trying to use that knowledge to help predict osteoporosis risk factors. They're developing tools known as biomarkers, which are chemical measures of the rate of bone remodeling that can be found in secretions from blood or urine. There are already biomarkers for the rate of bone remodeling that work very well in large population studies, says Heaney, but they do not yet have markers that work well in the doctor's office, on an individual patient level. Once more accurate biomarkers are developed, these and advanced imaging techniques may enormously improve our understanding of who is at greatest risk from osteoporosis.

"This allows us to focus on where the problem really lies: the excess remodeling that's making bone fragile," Heaney says.

New Osteoporosis Treatments

A few years ago, Heaney saw an 18-year-old girl who'd been in a serious car accident. She'd escaped with only a few bruises, and X-rays revealed that she had unusually high bone density. It turned out that her mother, too, had bone density well above the average. Heaney and his colleagues at Creighton began studying the entire family -- over 150 people -- and eventually identified what they call the "high bone mass gene."

A particular mutation in this gene causes the body to make abnormally high amounts of a protein called LRP5 (low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5). LRP5 influences how much bone is formed and maintained. "None of the people with the high bone mass gene had ever broken anything, even if they'd fallen off the barn roof," says Heaney.

The identification of the high bone mass gene and the chemical signaling pathway it involves has opened up a wide range of new possibilities for osteoporosis treatment. "The prospect here is to build an osteoporosis drug or drugs that cause the body to act as if it has that mutation, building up more bone," says Heaney. He believes that drugs aimed at this pathway are already in human testing, but it may take some time before they can come to market. "Because this pathway acts on other areas of the body besides bone, you have to be sure that your drug isn't producing unintended results elsewhere."

Today on WebMD

Women working out and walking with weights
Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
Chinese cabbage
Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
woman stretching
Get the facts on osteoporosis.
Porous bone
Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
senior woman
Woman holding plate of brocolli
wrist xray
Superfood for Bones
mature woman
sunlight in hands
man and woman in front of xray
woman with dumbbells