13 potential meds to target AS-related osteoporosis ID’d in study

Researchers found 241 genes common to both conditions

Marisa Wexler MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler MS |

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A doctor speaks with a patient in front of an X-ray.

A new study has identified more than a dozen medications that may serve as treatments for osteoporosis in people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

The medications target genes common to both osteoporosis and AS, but more studies will be needed to determine whether they can ease AS-associated osteoporosis.

The study, “Computational Drug Discovery in Ankylosing Spondylitis-induced Osteoporosis Based on Data Mining and bioinformatics analysis,” was published in World Neurosurgery.

Osteoporosis, or low bone density, can increase the risk of broken bones and related problems. While not fully recognized, it’s a common complication in people with AS. Little is known about how osteoporosis develops in AS, however. This has limited the development of potential therapies for preventing or treating it.

Scientists at Naval Medical University, China identified potential treatment targets for AS-related osteoporosis, looking first for genes linked with both conditions. Using text mining (computer-based scans of massive study databases), they identified 423 genes related to AS and 1,107 to osteoporosis — with 241 being common to both conditions.

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Many of these genes are involved in driving inflammation and the immune response, functional analyses showed. Because AS is caused by abnormal inflammation, these results imply common biological mechanisms between it and developing osteoporosis.

“AS affects the bone badly, and inflammation causes bone degradation and … bone loss” in the vertebrae, the researchers wrote.

Based on the functional analyses, the researchers constructed models to simulate the activity of these genes in cells, predicting how genes and proteins would interact with each other to drive disease. From them, they identified 20 “hub genes” centrally involved in driving these inflammatory processes.

The central role of these genes suggested they may be useful as therapeutic targets. In a final analysis, the scientists screened for existing medications known to affect these hub genes. The results identified 13 potential therapies corresponding to nine hub genes.

One of them was rilonacept, sold under the brand name Arcalyst as an approved treatment for several genetic conditions that result in abnormal inflammation. Another, siltuximab, is approved under the name Sylvant to treat Castleman’s disease, a disorder marked by noncancerous growths in the lymph nodes.

Other approved medications included ranibizumab, sold under the name Lucentis for certain eye diseases, and canakinumab, sold as Ilaris for arthritis and conditions that cause recurrent fevers.

Other therapies included experimental treatments for cancer and/or autoimmune diseases, though some of these are no longer in development.

These therapies may be useful for managing osteoporosis in AS, the researchers said, calling for further studies to explore their potential benefit. The researchers emphasized that a notable limitation of the study is that all the analyses were based on computer models. “Experimental verification is required to increase the credibility of this study,” they wrote.