New Form of Vitamin D Builds Bones
May Lead to More Effective Osteoporosis Treatments
Oct. 3, 2002 -- A new, revved up form of vitamin D may help women get back some of the bone mass they lose due to osteoporosis. New research shows the more potent version can build bone both in the lab and in animals.
More than 20 million Americans, mostly post-menopausal women, suffer from bone-weakening osteoporosis, and until recently few treatments have shown promise in helping women regain lost bone mass. Most treatments are currently geared toward preventing further bone loss through the use of bone-strengthening drugs, hormones, diet, and exercise.
But the authors of the study, published in the Sept. 30 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say the novel version of vitamin D may eventually become an important alternative to hormone replacement therapy.
The compound, known in scientific shorthand as 2MD, works when given in very low concentrations and seems to promote the growth of the cells responsible for making bone, with few side effects.
Researchers tested the compound in rats that had their ovaries removed to simulate menopause. Rats given a low dose of 2MD daily for 23 weeks had a 9% increase in total body bone mass.
Even more important, researchers found the vertebrae (bones that comprise the spine) of the treated rats showed a 25% increase in bone mass. The bones in the spine are most often affected by osteoporosis, frequently causing sufferers to develop a stooped posture.
Use of 2MD also increased bone mass in the limbs of the treated animals.
Although study author Hector F. DeLuca, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says it's the most promising vitamin D compound he's seen, he also notes that it has not yet been tested in humans. New compounds often show promising results in initial laboratory and animal tests, he says, but several years of testing in humans will be needed before the compound reaches the market.
Researchers say another form of vitamin D is currently used to treat osteoporosis but it has limited bone-building effects.