Alexander Agoulnik has been unraveling the mysteries of a specific hormone receptor, known to play a role in the formation of reproductive organs, for over two decades. Now, he and a team of drug discovery scientists identified a method that targets this receptor to help bone-producing cells make more bone — a discovery that paves a path to more effective, easy-to-take treatments for osteoporosis and other diseases associated with bone loss.
Years ago, Agoulnik and his collaborators found an interesting connection associated with a mutation on this receptor. They screened patients with undescended testes carrying this mutation and found many also had osteoporosis. This led the team to suspect the receptor also might be associated with bone development. Further research revealed it did. To activate this receptor and get it to function normally, the team tested hundreds of different variations of chemicals until they found the right one. The final compound was shown to improve bone density when it was tested on mouse models in the lab.
Agoulnik’s research continues to focus on how targeting this hormone receptor and similar ones could eventually lead to treatments for cancer, liver fibrosis and cardiovascular diseases.
Founding Director of the Ph.D. program in Biomedical Sciences, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
"The main ingredient for success in science is collaboration. Without collaboration, we would never have found the link between genes and bone development, and the collaboration with NIH was crucial because they are the best in the field to look for the right compounds.”