Osteoporosis Fact Sheet

CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand osteoperosis and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.


Estimates of the number of people in the U.S. with osteoporosis range from 10 million to 25 million, with 75 percent being women. For many of those individuals it can be a disease with minimal immediate impact but incredible lingering risk. Between 1.5 million and 2 million of those with the condition develop osteoporosis-related fractures each year. About 70 percent of fractures are in the vertebra of the spine, and they can range from minor to completely debilitating. The next most common fracture is in the hip, which increases the risk of premature death and frequently lands otherwise healthy functional elderly in nursing homes for the remainder of their lives. Osteoporosis costs the nation an estimated $17 billion a year.

Osteoporosis is a disease of aging. When we are young we have plenty of bone-forming stem cells that can replace any bone loss and repair most damage. Between the ages of 30 and 80 we have a 10-fold decrease in the number of these stem cells and the ones we have left are less effective at replacing and repairing bone. California’s stem cell agency has funded several projects that propose various ways to increase the number of these stem cells, or improve their effectiveness to help keep bones healthier longer (the full list of CIRM awards is below).

One team is testing bone-forming stem cells in animal models and revving up those cells with a hormone known to accelerate bone repair. Another group has isolated from fat tissue what they are calling a master mesenchymal stem cell, the class of stem cells capable of forming bone. They too, are giving the stem cells a boost, in this case with a special growth factor they have identified, and are testing it in animal models.

In July 2012, CIRM awarded one of its Disease Team awards to a group of researchers who are trying to use a new drug to improve the ability of patients’ own stem cells to make new bone. These awards require assembling the team necessary to do the experiments that are required before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow the potential therapy to be tested in people. In some cases, these awards also fund the early phase clinical trial once it is approved.

Disease team awards

University of California, Davis

This team proposes to increase the effectiveness of a patient’s own bone-forming mesenchymal stem cells. They have developed a drug that directs the stem cells to go to the bone surface and form new bone. During the first phase of the grant they will be working to ensure this drug meets the highest quality standards required by the FDA, and testing it in the lab to make sure it is both safe and shows some signs of being effective. During the second part of the project they plan to conduct a phase 1 trial to gauge safety, first in postmenopausal women and then in both women and men.

CIRM Grants Targeting Bone & Cartilage Disease

Researcher name Institution Grant Title Approved funds
Peter Schultz Scripps Research Institute Cartilage Regeneration by the Chondrogenic Small Molecule PRO1 during Osteoarthritis $6,047,249
Darryl D'Lima Scripps Health Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Chondroprogenitor Cells to Repair Osteochondral Defects $7,660,211
Bruno Peault University of California, Los Angeles Harnessing native fat-residing stem cells for bone regeneration $5,359,076
Peter Schultz California Institute for Biomedical Research Development of a Chondrogenic Drug Candidate Targeting Resident Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis $1,667,832
Dan Gazit Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Systemic Adult Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoporosis-Related Vertebral Compression Fractures $1,927,698
Gage DeKoeyer Crump University of Southern California Skeletogenic Neural Crest Cells in Embryonic Development and Adult Regeneration of the Jaw $2,247,403
Darryl D'Lima Scripps Health Stem Cell-Based Therapy for Cartilage Regeneration and Osteoarthritis $3,118,431
Jill Helms Stanford University Enhancing healing via Wnt-protein mediated activation of endogenous stem cells $6,464,126
Songtao Shi University of Southern California Oral and Craniofacial Reconstruction Using Mesenchymal Stem Cells $3,242,651
Dan Gazit Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Genetically Engineered Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Vertebral Compression Fractures. $107,622
John Hood Samumed, LLC Clinical Development of an osteoinductive therapy to prevent osteoporosis-related fractures $99,110
Nancy Lane University of California, Davis Increasing the endogenous mesenchymal stem cells to the bone surface to treat osteoporosis $107,750
Kyriacos Athanasiou University of California, Davis Tissue engineered cartilage from autologous, dermis-isolated, adult, stem (DIAS) cells $1,735,703
Nancy Lane University of California, Davis Treatment of osteoporosis with endogenous Mesenchymal stem cells $19,999,867
Dan Gazit Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Gene Targeting to Endogenous Stem Cells for Segmental Bone Fracture Healing $5,180,674
J. Leach University of California, Davis Multi-modal technology for non-destructive characterization of bioengineered tissues $1,842,792
Fan Yang Stanford University Injectable Macroporous Matrices to Enhance Stem Cell Engraftment and Survival $1,438,200
Peter Schultz California Institute for Biomedical Research Development of a Chondrogenic Drug Candidate Targeting Cartilage-residing Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Osteoarthritis $2,306,703

CIRM Bone & Cartilage Disease Videos

Find Out More:
Stem Cell FAQ | Stem Cell Videos | What We Fund

Disease Programs

Learn about how CIRM-funded stem cell research could generate treatments for many chronic diseases and injuries.

See disease fact sheets

CIRM Stem Cell Blog