ARRA-Funded Researchers Link Autophagy Genes to Osteoporotic Bone Loss 

Photo of Dr. Steven Teitelbaum with members of his lab.

Photo ID: Dr. Steven Teitelbaum (center rear) with members of his lab.

Steven Teitelbaum, M.D., a recipient of grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), has long been an investigator of osteoporosis, a major disease in which bones become weak and subject to fracture. Now, in his laboratory at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the ARRA support has resulted in his team’s discovery of new and potentially important targets for drug therapy to reduce or prevent bone loss.

Osteoporosis is caused by a relative increase in the activity of cells called osteoclasts, which degrade bone. Common treatments for the disease center on blocking the capacity of these cells to destroy bone. The ARRA-supported work showed that a particular set of genes—known as autophagy genes for their role in a cell’s ability to degrade its own cellular components—are involved in bone degradation caused by osteoclasts. Using mice in which these genes are deleted, Dr. Teitelbaum’s team found that the rodents were resistant to the kind of osteoporosis that sometimes accompanies menopause. "These autophagy genes," says the scientist, "may be drug targets to prevent bone loss."

According to Dr. Teitelbaum, the ARRA funding—administered through the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases—has allowed his group to perform the experiments and to hire a senior technician to breed the mice required by the protocol. "In our research, inhibiting bone loss continues to be an important venue for treating osteoporotic diseases," says Dr. Teitelbaum. "The information gathered from this ARRA grant has added to our knowledge base of anti-bone loss therapeutic targets."

In the United States, more than 40 million people either already have osteoporosis, or are at high risk due to low bone mass.

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The activity above is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about the National Institutes of Health’s ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit

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