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Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
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Gene Hikes Risk of Osteoporosis
8 April 1998 6:00 pm
Women who have certain versions of a gene that helps make the protein collagen are likely to have weaker than normal bones--and a higher risk of fractures--after they reach menopause. The finding, published in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine, raises the possibility that genetic tests might be used to identify and help women who may develop fragile bones (osteoporosis).
There have been several hints before now that genes are important in osteoporosis. Twin studies, for example, have shown that genetic factors determine about 80% of the variation in how bones fare with age. In 1996, researchers discovered that low density bones and fractured vertebra seem to accompany a different form, or allele, of a gene called COLIA1. This gene helps makes collagen, the protein that forms bone matrix and is essential for bone growth.
To see if these variations could predict the risk of weak bones and fractures, British and Dutch researchers studied a group of 1778 postmenopausal women enrolled in a long-term investigation called the Rotterdam Study. The team looked for patterns associated with two COLIA1 alleles, called S and s. Women who had one copy of the s allele had bone density in the thighbone and lower spine that was 2% less than that of women with no s alleles. During almost 4 years of observations, the researchers found that women with one copy of s had a 40% higher risk of wrist, hip, and other bone fractures. Women with two copies of s fared even worse: They had bones that were 4% less dense--and faced a 280% higher risk of fracture--than did women without any s alleles, says team member Andre Uitterlinden, a molecular geneticist at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
This finding reinforces the need for healthy women with osteoporotic relatives to consider diet, exercise, and possibly drug regimens, says Darwin Prockop, a geneticist at Allegheny University in Philadelphia. He also cautions that a complete understanding of the genetics of osteoporosis is far off.