Helen Hayes Hospital Researchers Awarded Major Osteoporosis Grant from National Institutes of Health
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  • The world renowned osteoporosis research team at Helen Hayes Hospital, New York State’s premier physical rehabilitation and research facility, has been awarded a further five year $2.5 million osteoporosis research grant by the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin diseases (NIAMS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    The hospital’s researchers were awarded this current grant to study how parathyroid hormone rebuilds bone structure that is destroyed by the devastating bone-wasting disease osteoporosis. Parathyroid Hormone (Teriparatide), which was approved for treatment of osteoporosis by the Food and Drug Administration in 2003, is the only osteoporosis medication currently available that actually rebuilds bone and reverses the damage caused by the disease. Lead investigator Dr. Robert Lindsay explains it this way. “As bone mass is lost the structural components of bone are also lost.  This change in bone architecture is a major reason for the bone fractures that result from osteoporosis. That teriparatide restores the architecture of bone is clear, but how it does so is still not fully understood. This grant will allow us to study, in humans, the ways in which teriparatide stimulates the formation of new bone tissue. This has the potential to benefit all patients who have osteoporosis today and give us insight into other ways that treatments could benefit bone, potentially leading to a cure for this debilitating disease.”

    The award-winning osteoporosis group, led by Dr. Robert Lindsay, includes other internationally renowned investigators at Helen Hayes Hospital including Dr. Felicia Cosman, Dr. David Dempster and Dr. Jeri Nieves.

    The team at HHH has spent several years studying parathyroid hormone (teriparatide), and the researchers are recognized as pioneers in their knowledge about its effects on bone. In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine* earlier this year, on a study led by Dr. Felicia Cosman, the group showed that parathyroid hormone uniquely stimulates the formation of new bone, and does so even in patients previously treated with alendronate (Fosamax), currently the most commonly used treatment for osteoporosis. Dr. Lindsay noted, “This study is an exciting and logical follow on to that paper. Here we are examining how parathyroid hormone affects cells in bone in women with osteoporosis.”  Dr. Jeri Nieves, who will spearhead the statistical analysis of this new study, noted that, “this study is carefully designed to yield the maximum information. One exciting feature is that all participants receive free treatment and medical care throughout the study.”

    The group at Helen Hayes Hospital has been in the forefront of osteoporosis research, supported by the National Institutes of Health for almost 20 years, with ground breaking research into the structural changes occurring in bone as osteoporosis develops, as well as into strategies for treatment of the disease.  In addition, Helen Hayes Hospital coordinates the New York State  Osteoporosis Prevention and Education Program (NYSOPEP), for which Dr. Nieves is the principal investigator and Dr. Lindsay a member of the State Advisory Council. The investigators are faculty members of Columbia University. Dr. Cosman is medical director for the National Osteoporosis Foundation and Dr. Lindsay serves as a Foundation board member. In addition to research, the osteoporosis programs at Helen Hayes Hospital include an inpatient post hip fracture rehabilitation service, bone density screening, and an outpatient metabolic bone disease clinic, particularly for osteoporosis.

    Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeleton in which the bones become weak and break easily. Osteoporosis causes more than 1.5 million bone fractures each year in the USA alone, and as the population of baby boomers ages, the problem will only become greater. It is estimated that as many as 40 million Americans have or are at risk of osteoporosis. In 2002, it was estimated that $18 billion was spent treating Americans with osteoporosis-related fractures.  These fractures, especially fractures of the hip, can result in death, loss of independence, and are one of the leading reasons women enter nursing homes in the United States.

    To learn more about this and other studies at Helen Hayes Hospital, call 845- 786 –4804.

    *Cosman et al NEJM July 2006

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