Skeletal lead release during bone resorption: effect of bisphosphonate treatment in a pilot study

Brian Gulson*, Karen Mizon, Howard Smith, John Eisman, Jacqueline Palmer, Michael Korsch, John Donnelly, Kay Waite

*Corresponding author for this work

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    30 Citations (Scopus)
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    There has been renewed interest in impacts on physiologic systems in the middle and older age groups, especially from fractures and hypertension. Increased blood lead (BPb) levels in postmenopausal females, which are thought to arise from bone demineralization, may also relate to other health effects including hypertension. Taking advantage of natural differences in lead isotope signature between Australian sources of lead and those from other countries, a 2-year pilot study was performed in premenopausal and postmenopausal females and male partners in which the subjects were administered a biphosphonate, alendronate, for 6 months. The aim of the study was to determine how lead isotopes and lead concentrations changed in relation to bone remodelling processes. Premenopausal subjects were a woman (and male partner) from Bosnia and two women from Colombia. The postmenopausal subject was a woman from Russia. Her male partner and one man from Sri Lanka were included. Multigenerational Australian subjects were 2 perimenopausal women and 1 postmenopausal woman. Each subject had blood and urine samples collected for markers of bone turnover and for lead isotope studies monthly for 7-9 months before, for 3 months during, and for up to 6 months after treatment with alendronate to inhibit bone resorption. Each subject thus acted as his or her own control. As predicted, there were significant decreases in the lead isotope ratio, 206Pb/204Pb, for the migrant subjects during treatment compared with the pretreatment period (p < 0.01). After cessation of treatment, an increasing isotope ratio for the postmenopausal subject (and older male partner) occured later than for premenopausal subjects, indicative of prolonged efficacy of the alendronate for the older subjects. The average BPb concentrations in migrant subjects decreased by about 20% during the treatment compared with the pretreatment period (p < 0.01). To our knowledge, these are the first BPb concentrations reported over monthly to quarterly intervals for environmentally exposed adults over an extended period. The changes in lead isotopic composition and lead concentration are consistent with a decrease in bone resorption and associated mobilization of lead during alendronate therapy. Older subjects at risk of fractures may benefit from treatment with antiresorptive therapy, such as the potent biphosphonates, with the added bonus of lower release of lead from bones and thus less risk of the potential adverse health effects of increased BPb levels.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1017-1023
    Number of pages7
    JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2002

    Bibliographical note

    Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives.


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