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Posted: July 15, 2008

Aspirin May Prevent Osteoporosis, Keep Aging Bones Healthy: Study

Many people take a daily aspirin to help prevent a heart attack. Now, researchers at the University of Southern California have uncovered another health benefit of the humble aspirin -- it may help prevent osteoporosis.


Forty-four million Americans, 68% of them women, suffer from the debilitating effects of osteoporosis, according to the National Institute of Health. One out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.

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This latest study identifies aspirin's medicinal role on two fronts. In mice, the drug appears to prevent both improper bone resorption (breakdown of the process that keeps bones healthy by releasing calcium and phosphate, or bone mineral, into the blood) and the death of bone-forming stem cells.


An aspirin regimen appears to help mice recover from osteoporosis in two useful ways, striking a balance between bone formation and resorption, according to Associate Professor Songtao Shi and Research Associate Takayoshi Yamaza of the USC School of Dentistry's Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology.


The silent disease affects both men and women. In women, bone loss is greatest during the first few years after menopause. Osteoporosis occurs when bone resorption occurs too quickly or when replacement occurs to slowly.


An aspirin regimen has been linked in earlier epidemiological studies to better bone mineral density, but the mechanisms of its interactions in regards to bone health had not yet been studied extensively, Shi said.


"We've shown how aspirin both inhibits bone resorption and promotes osteoblast formation," Shi said.


Another exciting aspect of the aspirin treatment is that the dose administered to the mice in order to increase their bone mineral density is the same as that of a typical human aspirin regimen when adjusted for body weight differences, he adds. While the species difference is still a factor, Shi said the results are promising.


"When we gave a large amount of aspirin to the mouse by injection, it did not work," Shi said, "but when we gave a low dose in the mice's water for a long period of time, similar to a human dosage, the bone mineral density increased."


The authors say the use of aspirin offers hope to patients and doctors searching for a potential alternative to bisphophonates currently being used as a means of prevention and treatment for osteoporosis. This latest study opens up the possibility that aspirin someday will not only be prescribed to ward off heart disease but also osteoporosis.


(Article courtesy of

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