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Research funding targets bone health

A Simon Fraser University researcher is leading a team of scientists working to create new drugs to stimulate bone regeneration research that will be furthered by a $2.5 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Lead researcher Robert Young heads a team of internationally recognized experts in bone disease and drug development. The researchers are focusing on developing small molecule compounds and nano-medicines that stimulate bone regeneration, and hope to identify new therapeutic approaches by improving understanding of bone renewal biology.

Their objective is to develop new therapeutic agents that promote bone repair, regeneration and renewal, and prove their efficiency in reproducing or improving bone strength.

Young says bone fractures cost the health care system nearly $2 billion in 2010. "Bone health is critical to the health and quality of life of Canadians," says Young, who holds the Merck Frost, BC Discovery Chair in Pharmaceutical Genomics, Bioinformatics and Drug Discovery at SFU.

"Strong bones provide a frame for mobility and protection against injury, while fragile bones are susceptible to debilitating fractures resulting in extended hospitalization, long-term disability and mortality, especially in the elderly."

The researchers are working to create new drugs that combine bone resorption suppressing activities with bone formation stimulating activities, designed to slowly release active components that stimulate high quality bone formation.

The research involves studying the "natural controls" that guide the development of cells in the bones toward either bone forming or bone resorbing cells, setting the stage for the next generation of bone regenerative therapies.

The grant is one of three announced today by the federal government targeting bone health research and totalling $7 million. The others focus on wrist fractures management and identifying bone loss in gum disease.

The funding is through the CIHR's Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis and addresses priorities identified at a 2009 national Bone Health Consensus Conference.


Contact: Marianne Meadahl
Simon Fraser University

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