Long-term metreleptin treatment increases bone mineral density and content at the lumbar spine of lean hypoleptinemic women

Metabolism. 2011 Sep;60(9):1211-21. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2011.05.016. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Strenuously exercising young women with hypothalamic amenorrhea are hypoleptinemic and have low bone mineral density (BMD) and content (BMC), which predispose them to increased fracture risk. Short-term leptin replacement in these women corrects many neuroendocrine abnormalities and increases circulating levels of bone formation markers. Whether treatment with recombinant methionyl human leptin (metreleptin) for a long period improves BMD and BMC remains unknown. We studied 20 strenuously exercising young women with hypoleptinemia (leptin concentration <5 ng/mL) and hypothalamic amenorrhea of at least 6 months' duration. Eleven were randomized to metreleptin (initial dose, 0.08 mg/[kg·d] for 3 months; altered thereafter to 0.12 mg/kg for lack of efficacy or 0.04 mg/[kg d] for more than 5% weight loss) and 9 were randomized to placebo for 9 months. After a 3-month washout period, subjects were reexamined at the 1-year time point. Six subjects elected to continue on open-label metreleptin treatment for another 12 months. Two subjects dropped out after 18 months, and 4 completed the entire 2-year study. The BMD and BMC of the total body, lumbar spine (L1-L4), hip, and radius were assessed by using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry at baseline and at 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months of treatment. Metabolic and hormonal parameters and bone markers were measured in blood and urine. Metreleptin significantly increased BMC (P = .034) and tended to increase BMD (P = .069) at the lumbar spine at 9 months in the entire study group (intention-to-treat analysis). In subjects who completed the entire 2-year study (n = 4), metreleptin significantly increased BMD (P = .024) and BMC (P = .049) at the lumbar spine by 4% to 6%. Changes were not significant at the whole body, hip, and radius. Changes in hormonal and metabolic parameters and bone markers were moderate during the first year of treatment, but metreleptin further increased insulin-like growth factor 1 and decreased cortisol and cross-linked C-terminal telopeptide of type 1 collagen concentrations in serum during the second year of treatment (P < .05). The incremental area under the estradiol concentration curve over the 2-year course of the study correlated positively with the corresponding increase in lumbar spine BMD (ρ = 0.42, P = .039). Long-term metreleptin administration in strenuously exercising young women with hypothalamic amenorrhea and hypoleptinemia increases lumbar spine BMD and BMC and alters bone remodeling milieu to favor bone accretion. Results from this pilot study should be confirmed by future, larger clinical trials and need to be extended by studying bone microarchitecture and fracture risk.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00130117.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Bone Remodeling / drug effects
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis
  • Leptin / adverse effects
  • Leptin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / deficiency*
  • Leptin / therapeutic use
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / drug effects*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / metabolism


  • Leptin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • metreleptin

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00130117