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Amgen to Test Bone Treatment in Space

Medicine: Working with NASA, firm will put mice given experimental drug on shuttle to see effects of reduced gravity.

November 28, 2001|Bloomberg News

Amgen Inc., the biggest biotechnology company, said it's working with NASA to send mice into space to test an experimental drug that someday might prevent bone loss in astronauts and bedridden patients.

The experiment will be conducted on the space shuttle Endeavor, scheduled for launch Thursday. It's Amgen's first space-based research project, the company said.

Bones need to carry weight, such as by walking, to stimulate a normal process of renewal.

The reduced gravity in space puts astronauts at risk for bone loss, making the space shuttle a unique laboratory for evaluating a drug's potential to stem a decline in bone mass, said Paul Kostenuik, principal investigator for the experiment.

"If it works in outer space, it should work on the ground as well," Kostenuik said.

The effects of gravity are up to a million times less during space flight.

In the experiment, 12 mice will be injected with OPG and 12 mice will be given a placebo 24 hours before launch.

At the end of the 10-day mission, the mice will be tested to see whether the drug prevented bone loss.

OPG is a human protein that helps regulate bone growth and prevents its destruction.

The drug is in Phase I human tests, the first of three stages generally required before U.S. regulatory approval.

The Amgen drug would be injected, making it a better choice of treatment for astronauts than pills, Amgen said. Gravity helps move pills into the stomach. In space, they can linger in the esophagus.

Shares of Thousand Oaks-based Amgen fell $1.54 to $65.85 on Nasdaq, in line with the decline in the Amex biotechnology Index.

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