A research team at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute is conducting research with baboons that may help explain why some people who take bone-strengthening drugs are at risk for atypical fractures in the long bones in their legs. Lorena M. Havill, PhD, a Texas Biomed scientist, and researchers from the Southwest Research Institute and Indiana University, have examined femurs of deceased baboons and found differences in the microstructure of their femurs that she traced to genetic variation among the animals.

Havill and her colleagues examined femurs from 101 baboons from the pedigreed colony at Southwest National Primate Research Center. The bones of the deceased baboons were obtained during necropsy and preserved, and the research team did microscopic examinations and found differences in bone remodeling dynamics that were influenced by inherited differences among the animals. As indicated on a Texas Biomed news release, the study supports the theory that genetic variations may regulate bone remodeling.

These genetic differences could explain why a small percentage of older women suffer a distinct type of fracture of their femurs when they take bisphosphonates, according to the Texas Biomed news release.

Havill says, “Baboons are anatomically and physiologically very similar to humans, and these animals live a long time, so they develop many of the same age-related diseases that we do. This makes them a good model for age-related diseases such as osteoporosis. The results of this study suggest an explanation for why some women respond differently to the widely prescribed bisphosphonates.”

Havill writes in the study, “This supports the potential for a scenario in which certain individuals who are genetically predisposed to cortical microstructure that is less mechanically advantageous may experience disadvantageous responses to remodeling suppression, such as being at higher risk for atypical femoral fractures.”

Source: Texas Biomedical Research Institute