Osteoporosis is a disease which reduces bone density, increasing the risk of breaking. Osteoporosis sufferers are typically older people – it is the main reason of a broken bone among the elderly. Now scientists from The University of British Columbia have found a potential candidate for a new treatment – it comes from traditional Chinese medicine.
Traditional medicine is typically disregarded as unreliable and ineffective. However, sometimes scientists find some ancient solutions to our modern problems that simply work wonders. Researchers found that red sage, typical in traditional Chinese medicine, blocks an enzyme called Cathepsin K, which breaks down the collagen in bones during osteoporosis. Not only a substance derived from this herb seems to be working at reducing osteoporosis symptoms, it also does so without any noticeable side effects. This could lead to a treatment that would tremendously increase quality of life for the elderly.
The role of Cathepsin K in breaking down the collagen has been known for some time already. Various research groups have targeted this enzyme trying to find the best candidate for the new treatment. However, while it is possible to inhibit the Cathepsin K, all substances tested had some negative side effects, such as stroke, skin fibrosis, cardiovascular issues and many others. That is because Cathepsin K is actually necessary in our bodies – blocking it completely is not acceptable as a treatment. This herb from ancient Chinese medicine allows blocking the Cathepsin K in bone only.
Scientists tested the substance derived from the red sage with mice and human bone cells and with mice models and results are promising. This new drug stopped deterioration of bone tissue and helped increasing mineral bone density by as much as 35 % in mice, compared to control group. Blocking the Cathepsin K entirely was really a bad idea, because it is important in other parts of the body – that is what caused all these side effects in previous researches. Preety Panwar, one of the authors of the study, said: “Our compound only locks the collagen –degrading CatK activity, preventing the unregulated breakdown of collagen in bones without any other negative impacts”.
Osteoporosis is a huge global health problem, which is going to affect one out of three women and one of out five men worldwide. However, this new drug has potential in treating other bone diseases, such as arthritis and certain bone cancers.