Studies May Lead to Osteoporosis Treatment

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Scientists studying human DNA have discovered two sequences that may help to forecast the risk of osteoporosis. The research may lead to a future treatment for the disease, which reduces bone density.

The discovery may allow researchers to predict the risk of getting the disease in 20 percent of people.

Another team of researchers also studying the disease's effects on the body found seven different types of DNA sequences that appear to be associated in all human beings.

Preventative Results

The results of these studies were published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet. Some scientists believe the results may also reveal how osteoporosis develops in a person's body over time.

"Eventually, a panel of genetic markers could be used in addition to environmental risk factors to identify individuals who are most at risk for osteoporotic fractures," Tim Spector and Brent Richards, researchers at King's College London wrote in their report in the Lancet.

The two genes are an important target for treatments, and drugs are already under development, Spector's team said.

"These can be measured with near perfection, and without bias, years before the age at which fractures tend to occur -- which could provide ample lead-time for preventative measures," they wrote.

Disease Affects One in Three Women, One in Five Men

The International Osteoporosis Foundation reports osteoporosis affects about one in three women and one in five men worldwide. Currently, 40 percent of women past menopause develop the disease. The condition may also develop in elderly men.

Currently, the treatment for osteoporosis includes bisphosphonates - drugs that stimulate the body to increase bone mass and cut the risk of fractures in patients.

Medical professionals say exercise with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and having thicker bones lowers the risk developing the disease.

The studies included more than 18,500 British, European, and Australian participants of European descent. According to WebMD, additional studies would be required to track gene patterns in people from other ethnic backgrounds.

Sources: Reuters, WebMD

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