Gene Silencing and Osteoporosis

Randall Parker comments on recent work demonstrating that osteoporosis (age-related bone loss, a serious condition) can be partially prevented in mice through gene silencing:

Mutations in either of two genes prevented much of age-related bone loss and increase in fat.

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It would be interesting to know whether these mice will live any longer or shorter than wild type mice.

It might then seem logical for life extension advocates to advocate the development of drugs to silence TLR4 (perhaps based on DNA anti-sense technology or RNA interference technology). But keep in mind that TLR4 plays an important role in spurring the immune response to dangerous blood infections.

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Perhaps this can be finessed somehow. If compounds that could act in place of TLR4 could be found then those compounds could be delivered to patients whose own TLR4 genes have been suppressed by a DNA anti-sense drug. Alternatively, perhaps a drug can be developed that will suppress TLR4's effects on fat cells or bone cells (aside: does TLR4 down-regulate osteoblasts or up-regulate osteoclasts?) without interfering with immune response.

Another possibility is to suppress whatever factors might be up-regulating TLR4 in aging bodies. But my guess is that the most likely factor for the cause of TLR4 expression in old folks is an accumulation of damage that causes an inflammation response. Generally speaking, as people age more of their inflammation and repair genes are activated. Possibly we can selectively suppress subsets of those genes to achieve some slowing of aging. But what we really need to do most of all is to be able to repair all the things that are breaking.

Osteoporosis is one the many nasty conditions that, like Alzheimer's or other forms of senility, was once thought of as being "part of normal aging." I suspect that medical researchers will eventually categorize all age-related degeneration as undesirable conditions of one sort of another, and the sooner the better.

I mentioned another piece on osteoporosis at the Longevity Meme earlier this week. You should read it - it's packed with scary facts about the condition:

Here is a frightening statistic from SAGE Crossroads: "Thanks to thinning skeletons, half of all postmenopausal women and a quarter of men over 50 will fracture a bone." This, like many other unpleasant future realities, is something that we don't like to think about - but sticking our heads in the sand is a bad strategy. It is far better to actively support scientists who are working on therapies for osteoporosis.
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