Researchers from the Garvan Institute for Medical Research (Australia) have revealed that a common treatment for osteoporosis stimulates the cells of the immune system in the lung that form one of the first lines of defense against pathogens.

The findings have been published in the journal 'eLife' and has carried out experimental models, in which bisphosphonate treatment stimulated pulmonary macrophages to mount a stronger response against an immunological challenge .

«Bisphosphonates are a safe and effective class of drugs for osteoporosis that have been the standard of care since the decade of 1990 to prevent the loss of bone and reduce the risk of fractures. We have found an additional potential benefit for this treatment: it can stimulate the immune function of lung cells, which can protect against respiratory infections and pneumonia . Our evidence warrants further research that we hope will lead to better health outcomes in the older population, who are at higher risk for pneumonia and osteoporosis, “commented study lead author Mike Rogers.

Bisphonates, key to protection against pneumonia

Among the reasons why the study arose, the first author of the article, Marcia Muñoz, explained that they have tried to understand the reason why bisphonates have a beneficial effect in protecting against pneumonia. So they administered a bisphosphonate called zoledronic acid to mouse models and tracked how the drug moved to different cells.

«Previously it was thought that bisphosphonates act only in bones, but we discovered that they are taken up by macrophages in the lung, which are 'first response' cells that can recognize, engulf and destroy a pathogen during an immune response» , Muñoz has revealed.

After that, the team tested the immune response of their model by exposing them to LPS, a molecule found on the surface of bacteria, which is commonly used to assess the response to infection. They found that even after a single dose of bisphosphonate, macrophage activity in the lung had increased compared to mice that had not received the treatment.

In the skeleton, bisphosphonates prevent bone loss by blocking an enzyme needed by specialized cells that break down bone. In the lung immune cells , we found that the treatment blocked the same enzyme, which in this case improved the immune response “, he stressed the second author of the research, Emma Fletcher.