AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – MCG has received nearly 17 million dollars in federal funding for two big initiatives in osteoporosis. 

Bones and muscles- we all have them. And, unfortunately, they deteriorate over time. 

Doctors and researchers at MCG are using grant money from the National Institutes of Health to better understand why and how to keep your bones and muscles healthier longer. 

Bisphosphonates have been the main drug used to treat osteoporosis, the leading cause of bone fractures. 

“They’re very effective, but it’s known that there are some very, very rare side effects that can happen after you’ve been on these drugs for a very long time – for about five years or more,” says Dr. Laura Carbone, osteoporosis expert and Chief of Rheumatology. 

These side effects include fractures of the thigh bone and jawbone loss.

Dr. Carbone and her team have launched a 5.7 million dollar study to help develop a “risk calculator” to determine individual risk for these side effects.

“It’s a conversation piece with a patient and their clinician,” says Dr. Carbone. “So we can say, ‘yes, you are at highest risk and you should stop the drug’. And this is for how long, so it’s not forever. Or ‘you’re at low risk- here’s your risk, it’s really rather low and I don’t think we should stop the drug’. Because then if we stop it, you’re at risk for these terrible osteoporotic fractures.”

Doctors Carlos Isales and Mark Hamrick are two of four principal investigators on an 11 million dollar grant. 

Their goal is to understand how the conversation between bone and muscles change as we age.

“What we’re doing for this project is look not only at what drives our bone loss with aging, but what contributes to muscle loss as well. And which is kind of preceding the other,” says Dr. Hamrick, bone and muscle biologist and co-director of the MCG Center for Healthy Aging. “So, is it a chicken and egg phenomenon? And to what extent can we, perhaps, treat the muscle loss to improve the bone and the other way around.”

Doctor Hamrick and Doctor Isales emphasize that aging starts long before physical signs show- around 25 years old. 

And, with a generation of over 70 million baby boomers expected to reach age 65 by 2030, their focus is on helping people prevent these issues before they happen.

“I think these are issues that we need to address now before it becomes an epidemic in our country…,” says Dr. Isales, Chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at MCG and co-director of the MCG Center for Healthy Aging. “We want people to be able to do everything they would like to do, even as they get older.”

They aim to help people increase healthspan.

“Not necessarily living longer, but living better, healthier,” said Dr. Isales.

During our older years, doctors say our bones help prevent falls and strengthen our muscles which, in turn, support our bones. 

These five-year studies at MCG will help us better understand how to protect our bones and ensure a greater quality of life as we age.