Scientists Test Malaria Drug for Bone Diseases

Dec. 10, 2013

female skeletonPreclinical data suggest that a drug used to treat and prevent malaria and given previously as an anti-inflammatory could be repurposed to treat post-menopausal osteoporosis, according to a paper this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by Brendan F. Boyce, M.D., vice chair Anatomic Pathology at the URMC.

A bone biologist, Boyce studies the delicate balance between bone formation (carried out by osteoblasts) and bone loss (carried out by osteoclasts). When disruption of the balance tips toward too many osteoclasts, a higher rate of bone destruction occurs leading to fractures associated with osteoporosis and joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis.

He discovered an important step in the formation of osteoclasts and, more importantly, found ways to inhibit bone destruction by using chloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that was FDA-approved decades ago. Boyce believes his paper is the first to describe the mechanism by which chloroquine inhibits osteoclast formation and prevents bone loss in an animal model of osteoporosis.

Next, his lab is studying a way to more safely deliver chloroquine to the bone to minimize side effects, which include the possibility of blurred vision and blindness.

To read the full study, click here.