Magazine article Science News

New Drug Could Heal Hard-to-Mend Fractures. (Bone Builder)

Magazine article Science News

New Drug Could Heal Hard-to-Mend Fractures. (Bone Builder)

Article excerpt

A synthetic compound can heal broken bones that are so damaged they don't knit on their own, a study in rats and dogs shows. Encouraged by the findings, scientists are already testing the compound in people. If the experimental drug--so far, called only CP-533,536--passes safety and effectiveness trials, it could become an important treatment for the very worst of fractures.

The compound works by binding to a receptor molecule on the surface of bone-building cells. A natural compound called prostaglandin E2 normally attaches to this receptor, which sets off a flurry of bone-repair signals in the cell. When tested as a drug, however, prostaglandin E2 had dire side effects.

CP-533,536 appears to mimic the prostaglandin's bone-building benefits without its downside, says study coauthor David D. Thompson of Pfizer in Groton, Conn. He and his colleagues report their findings in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Prostaglandin E2 actually binds to several molecules on cell surfaces, some of which might account for its side effects, Thompson says. Previous studies suggested that one receptor is particularly instrumental to bone growth, so his team screened hundreds of compounds to find ones that would only latch onto that cell-surface molecule. They then modified one of the selected compounds to improve its binding. They named the result CP-533,536.

Next, the researchers injected CP-533,536 near fractures in some rats and gave other rats inert shots at their injury sites. Only the drug-treated rats showed significant gains in bone density. …

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