Researchers in New Zealand have shown that the lactoferrin is uniquely able to increase the proliferation of human osteoblast cells, which are crucial to building bone.* Their findings may hold enormous significance in preventing and treating osteoporosis, a metabolic bone disease that is considered difficult to treat.
Lactoferrin, a secretory protein found in milk, saliva, nasal and gastrointestinal secretions, and other sources, is thought to provide broad-spectrum defense against bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. Lactoferrin exhibits immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and anti-infective activity, and also promotes wound healing.
Osteoblasts are bone cells that promote bone growth, while osteoclasts counter osteoblast activity by regulating the resorption or breakdown of bone. Traditional treatments for osteoporosis inhibit bone resorption but do not stimulate bone growth. Researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, have found that when nourished with lactoferrin at physiological concentrations in vitro, human osteoblast-like cells undergo increased proliferation and reduced cell death, while osteoclast proliferation is diminished. Lacto-ferrin also exhibits these effects more potently than other naturally occurring growth factors. Concen-trations of lactoferrin in excess of physiological levels stimulate osteoblast proliferation even more, up to a factor of five times, and reduce cell death by up to 70%. Lactoferrin is a prominent component of whey protein and may also be obtained in synthetic form that is bioidentical to human lactoferrin.
The researchers believe that lactoferrin’s role in promoting the physiological growth of bone holds important implications for preventing and slowing the progression of osteoporosis, which afflicts some 20 million American adults, often leading to crippling or fatal hip fractures.
—Linda M. Smith, RN