GDF11 decreases bone mass by stimulating osteoclastogenesis and inhibiting osteoblast differentiation

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2016-09-22

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12794

Affiliations: 1

Authors: 14

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Research Highlight

Blocking bone loss

© STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty

© STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty

Blocking GDF11, a protein associated with embryonic skeletal development and tooth repair, could be the key to a promising strategy to treat osteoporosis, researchers at Sichuan University (SCU) report.

Osteoporosis, characterized by weak bones and increased risk of fracture in the elderly, is due to poor bone turnover — the lifelong process that breaks down bones and replaces them with new ones. Menopausal women are at a greater risk of developing the disease, due to decreasing oestrogen levels and associated bone loss. The SCU team discovered, through a mouse model, that the growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) protein can interfere with this bone renewal.

They found that injections of GDF11 caused bone loss in both young and old mice, and inhibited generation of bone-forming cells and repair of bone defects. Blocking GDF11, on the other hand, prevented bone loss, caused by age and oestrogen-deficiency in female mice.

These findings suggest that targeting GDF11 could keep bones healthy for longer, the authors say.

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  1. Nature Communications 7, 12794 (2016). doi: 10.1038/ncomms12794
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West China School/Hospital of Stomatology, SCU, China 1