UTHSC using $1.6 million to find osteoporosis innovations

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and Dr. Susan Miranda have received a $1.6 million grant that will be used to uncover breakthroughs in osteoporosis research. The grant was provided by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health, and research will take place over a five year period.
 
“I’m trying to better understand the tissue-specific actions of estrogen and estrogen drugs so that we can best treat women with osteoporosis and prevent osteoporosis,” says Miranda, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. “Osteoporosis affects so many people and so little is known about it.”
 
Miranda’s research will explore the mechanism of action of estrogens in bone cells, especially focusing on the genes regulated by estrogens in osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Estrogens are important in the development of bone and maintenance of bone mineral density in both men and women.
 
Osteoporosis affects more than 10 million people in the U.S., and an additional 33.6 million people have low bone mass and are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Women are more likely than men to suffer from osteoporosis, yet seven percent of men in the U.S. over age 50 also have the disease. With the aging population, these numbers are expected to increase over the next few decades.
 
Up to about ten years ago, women were given hormone replacement therapy (including estrogen) until that was deemed a risk for heart disease and breast cancer.
 
“Women with ER positive breast cancers are treated with either tomoxifen, which is an anti-estrogen in the breast, or aromatase inhibitors, which blocks estrogen production. So what it is doing to other tissues? We don’t want to give women osteoporosis after treating their breast cancer,” explains Miranda.
 
Miranda joined UTHSC in July after formerly working at UCLA. She became involved in osteoporosis research while working as a post-doctoral Fellow in an estrogen lab at Harvard Medical School during the mid-2000s.
 
By Michael Waddell
 
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