A New Way to Deliver Estrogen May Help Women With Osteoporosis

Every year, over 300,000 adults aged 65 or older are hospitalized for hip fractures, and most of them are women. Osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones weaker and more likely to break, affects women more often than men. But a new study in Nature Communications may have found something that could help with that.

Key takeaways:
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    Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones weaker and more likely to break, and it tends to affect women more often than men.
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    Researchers have discovered a new way to deliver estrogen that may lead to better treatments for women with bone fractures and osteoporosis.
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    The study helped both female mice without ovaries and post-menopausal mice heal from bone fractures.
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    This study may also benefit gender reassignment surgeries and dental implant surgeries.

Researchers have discovered a new way to deliver estrogen that may lead to better treatments for bone fractures in women.

Scientists, including Dr. Charles Chan, an assistant professor of surgery at Stanford University, found that a single, localized dose of estrogen on a broken bone in a postmenopausal mouse can speed up the healing process.

This study is one of few like it, due to the many studies that particularly focus on male animals.

“The majority of stem cell research is done on male animals. There’s very little research that has actually been done on females. The research is long overdue, especially the question of why women heal differently from men.” said Dr. Chan to Wu Tsai Alliance.

The study began after a few realizations by Dr. Chan and Professor of Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. George Yang:

The bone is a living organ, with tissues always being made and rebuilt.

The immune systems of men and women are different.

A person's immune system comes from their bone marrow, which is a soft tissue that has stem cells.

The researchers begin to wonder if stem cells may be the reason why men and women heal in different ways. And so they started their study to find out if the skeletal stem cells of men and women are different.

To do this, the scientists surgically removed the ovaries from female mice to induce a menopause-like state. Then, they used what is basically a crushed pill that is put right on the wound to give localized estrogen to the broken bone.

This process was able to increase healing in the mice without ovaries. It also showed that the localized estrogen was able to help heal naturally post-menopausal female mice. The male mice did not respond to the estrogen delivery.

When menopausal women get estrogen injections, it can help build up their bones. However, when estrogen is injected all over the body instead of just in one place, it can increase the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other diseases. With systemically injected estrogen, those risks are more easily avoided.

“Knowing that the skeletal stem cells express the receptors themselves allows us to find an alternative strategy from systemic estrogen for treating bone fractures. So now if nana falls and breaks her hips, we can piece her pelvis back together, and locally we’ll release some estrogen to get the bone to heal,” said Dr. Chan.

One in two women will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. For women, the incidence is greater than that of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined.

The team's research could help older women who have broken bones or osteoporosis in the future. It could also help with gender reassignment surgeries and dental implant surgeries.

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