A recent study suggests that deer antlers may offer the cure for millions of women and men fighting osteoporosis. Answering the question of how here is the answer- because deer antlers carry two genes that allow bones to grow and harden.
Stags contain two genes that enable them to regrow their antlers every year. The stag antlers grow up to whopping 2 centimeters per day during summertime and start shedding in winters. In the entire animal kingdom, only antlers are the regenerating bone which is a rarity.
These genes— uhrf1 that helps in the division of bone cell and s100a10 that aids in hardening of bone tissue—in stags can be used to treat human bone conditions like osteoporosis or healing rapidly a bone fracture. The researchers further found out that these genes function collectively to generate new bone cells and toughen existing bone tissue.
The lead author of the study Professor Peter Yang said, “Our ultimate goal is to figure out how we can apply the same underlying biology that allows for rapid bone regeneration in deer antlers to help treat human bone conditions, such as osteoporosis.”
The researchers gathered samples of early antler tissue from a deer farm in California, which is essentially composed of skeletal stem cells.
During its initial phase, antler tissues are soft similar to the cartilage of the human nose. It is only in the second stage that these antlers mineralize and become stiff. As the researchers compared the human bone marrow to deer antlers, they came to the conclusion that the bone marrow cells resembled the antler genes.
When the researchers introduced these two stag genes in mice, they saw an upsurge in cell multiplication and bone density.
The study is published in the Journal of Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
Although the study is still in its infancy, the researchers are optimistic about cracking diseases like osteoporosis and rapidly healing fractures in humans.
In healthy bones, one group of cells know as osteoblast produce new bone tissue while another group known as osteoclast breaks down old bone to maintain a balanced bone structure.
However, in osteoporosis the osteoclasts exceed osteoblasts, leading to porous and weak bones.
Professor Yang added, “We have two focuses. To understand the genetic regulation of deer antler growth and to see if we can use this information to build therapeutic agents to potentially prevent or treat bone diseases such as osteoporosis, or more quickly repair bone fractures.”
“Knowing the genetics behind antler regeneration, fast bone growth and mineralization is fundamental to our ultimate therapeutic goal and is critical to understanding rapid bone regeneration in other species, like humans.”
“We’re just at the beginning of this research, but our ultimate goal is to figure out how we can apply the same underlying biology that allows for rapid bone regeneration in deer antlers to help treat human bone conditions, such as osteoporosis.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but this could be a unique model of bone regeneration, and our initial work here has started to lay a foundation for future studies.”
The next move is to test these two antler genes in human cells in the lab as per Professor Yang.
Osteoporosis is known to affect more than 44 million people in the U.S and up to 3 million people in the U.K.