- Parathyroid hormone–based medications can stimulate bone formation to treat osteoporosis but are only effective when administered by injection
- Researchers have now identified an oral compound that influences components of the parathyroid hormone signaling pathway to increase bone formation and bone mass in mice
- The investigators are currently working to optimize and develop this compound into a new therapy for patients
BOSTON – Parathyroid hormone can stimulate bone formation, and analogs of the hormone are often prescribed to patients with osteoporosis; however, these medications are only effective when administered by daily injection.
A team led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) recently identified a promising compound that influences components of the parathyroid hormone signaling pathway and that, when given orally to mice, increases bone mass. The group’s discovery, which is published in PNAS, might lead to a new, more convenient drug for preventing and treating osteoporosis.
“Currently there are no orally available medications for osteoporosis that stimulate bone formation. We sought to develop such medications based upon our detailed understanding of the pathways that normally govern bone production,” says senior author Marc Wein, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist at MGH and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The pathway that involves parathyroid hormone inhibits salt-inducible kinase isoforms 2 and 3 (SIK2 and SIK3), which are enzymes with roles in the regulation of bone growth and remodeling.
Wein and his colleagues generated a novel structural model of these enzymes and then used advanced methods including structure-based drug design and iterative medicinal chemistry to identify a compound that potently inhibits SIK2 and SIK3. This compound, termed SK-124, had parathyroid hormone–like effects when given to cells and, most importantly, when fed to mice. In mice, oral treatment once a day for three weeks increased blood levels of calcium and vitamin D and also boosted bone formation and bone mass without evidence of short-term toxicity.
“Based on these findings, we propose that small molecules like SK-124 might represent ‘next generation’ oral bone building therapies for osteoporosis,” says Wein. “We are currently collaborating with a pharmaceutical company—Radius Health, Inc.—to further optimize and develop this compound into a treatment for patients.”
Additional MGH co-authors include Tadatoshi Sato, Christian D. Castro Andrade, Sung-Hee Yoon, Yingshe Zhao, Daniel J. Brooks, Marie B. Demay, and Mary L. Bouxsein.
This work was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Harrington Discovery Institute, and Radius Health, Inc.
B.M. and B.L. are employees of Radius Health. M.N.W. holds equity in and is a scientific advisory board member of Relation Therapeutics. M.N.W. is a co-inventor on pending patents regarding the use and composition of SIK inhibitors for osteoporosis. W.J.G. is a co-inventor on a pending patent regarding the composition of SIK inhibitors for osteoporosis. M.N.W. receives research funding from Radius Health.
About the Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The Mass General Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with annual research operations of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 9,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In July 2022, Mass General was named #8 in the U.S. News & World Report list of "America’s Best Hospitals." MGH is a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.