NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In an animal study of osteoporosis, researchers have shown that low-dose aspirin can decrease the activity of cells that breakdown bone, while increasing the activity of cell that build up bone, according to research published online in the journal PLoS One.

Increased activity of cells that breakdown bone is typically cited as the cause of osteoporosis, but recent evidence suggests that a drop in bone-forming cells may also play a role, Dr. Songtao Shi from University of Southern California School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, and colleagues note.

In lab studies, the team found that aspirin reduced the destruction of bone-forming cells in mice. They further showed that adding low-dose aspirin makes bone-forming cells more active and bone-degrading cells less active, resulting in thicker and stronger bones.

“Aspirin may offer a new approach” for treating the osteoporosis commonly seen in postmenopausal women, the researchers conclude.

Although human studies have suggested that regular use of aspirin may have a moderate beneficial effect on bone thickness in postmenopausal women, “more detailed studies are necessary to (clarify) the underlying mechanism by which aspirin may prevent and treat osteoporosis,” Shi added in comments to Reuters Health.

SOURCE: PLoS One 2008.