NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The 'Happy Peptide' In The Battle Against Osteoporosis

Film X-ray: Pelvis of osteoporosis patient

A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism  by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center says a type of protein nerve cells use to communicate with each other may lead to a  possible treatment for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. In this edition of KERA's weekly consumer health series, Vital Signs, Dr. Yihong Wan, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and lead author of the study, explains more about orexins.

For more information:

UT Southwestern Study on Orexinsand Osteoporosis 

What is Osteoporosis? says osteoporosis, or thinning bones, can result in painful fractures. Risk factors for osteoporosis include aging, being female, low body weight, low sex hormones or menopause, smoking, and some medications. Prevention and treatment include calcium and vitamin D, exercise, and osteoporosis medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?

A person is often not aware that he or she has osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. But there are occasionally symptoms of the disorder, which could include:

  • Backache
  • A gradual loss of height and an accompanying stooped posture
  • Fractures of the spine, wrist, or hip

Osteoporosis Risk in Men and Women

Women experience more rapid bone loss in their 50s than men do. By the time they're both in their late 60s, though, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate. Statistics show that 2 million men have osteoporosis today. Another 12 million are at risk. And one out of every four men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Types of Osteoporosis in Children

Secondary juvenile osteoporosis refers to osteoporosis that develops as a result of another condition. This is by far the most common kind of osteoporosis in children. Some of the diseases that can lead to osteoporosis in children include:

  • anorexia nervosa
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • cystic fibrosis
  • diabetes
  • homocystinuria, a genetic metabolic disorder
  • hyperparathyroidism
  • hyperthyroidism
  • juvenile arthritis
  • kidney disease
  • leukemia
  • malabsorption syndrome
  • osteogenesis imperfecta, sometimes called brittle bone disease

Some osteoporosis in children is a direct result of disease itself. With rheumatoid arthritis, for example, children may have lower than expected bone mass, especially near arthritic joints. Certain drugs can also lead to juvenile osteoporosis. These can include chemotherapy for cancer, anticonvulsants for seizures, or steroids for arthritis. If your child has one of these conditions, ask your child's health care provider about testing and monitoring bone density.
Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis means that there is no known cause of the disease. This type of juvenile osteoporosis is rare. It develops most often just before the onset of puberty. Although most of the bone density may return during puberty, children with juvenile osteoporosis usually have lower peak bone mass as adults.