5 July 2012
Researchers from Children of the 90s, in collaboration with scientists from Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden, have identified a gene called WNT16 which they believe to be associated with osteoporosis. These results are among the first to identify the ‘osteoporosis’ gene.
Osteoporosis, the condition that affects bones, causing them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break (fracture), affects approximately half of elderly women and one in five elderly men in Britain. The condition is highly heritable (passed from one generation to the next), with forearm fractures, which affect 1.7 million individuals a year, estimated to have a 54 per cent heritability rate.
The cost to society of fractures is high and is estimated at $19 billion per year in the United States alone.
This new research shows that the gene appears to affect the thickness of bones, as well as the risk of fracture, implying that the gene might contribute to developing osteoporosis in later life.
The findings, published today in the journal PLoS Genetics, are based on a study of 5,878 Europeans, including 3,382 individuals in Children of the 90s at the University of Bristol, and a second study of 5,672 individuals from five cohorts in Australia, Europe and North America.
‘Identification of the gene is important’ said Dr David Evans from the University of Bristol, one of the report’s authors, ‘because it gives us clues about how young adults develop thick bones in early life, and consequently how osteoporosis might develop in older individuals. It also shows us places where future drug therapies could be targeted to help treat the condition.’