Broadcast: December 3, 2003
This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Scientists in Iceland say they have found a gene linked to osteoporosis. This disease causes bones to break easily. It is most common in older people, especially women after menopause.
Osteoporosis results from an imbalance in the cells of the body that either form or destroy bone tissue. Normally, bone-forming cells create more bone than the other cells can destroy. As people grow older, however, the action of the destructive cells increases faster. Bones break more easily. Hormone changes in women increase this bone-thinning effect.
Now, researchers at the deCODE Genetics company say a gene involved in bone development may increase the risk of osteoporosis. The gene is called B-M-P-two. The researchers reported their work in the new publication P-L-O-S Biology. The work is part of a larger genetic study of the Icelandic people.
The researchers examined genetic information on two-hundred-seven families. They studied people who suffered easily broken bones. Blood from these families showed a link to an area on chromosome twenty. That area contains six known genes, including four involved in bone formation.
The researchers then studied the genes of seven-hundred-five people with osteoporosis. About thirty percent of them had one of the three versions of the B-M-P-two gene linked to a higher risk of osteoporosis. The researchers say the risk was three times greater than in people without these forms of the gene.
Scientists in Denmark carried out a separate study in two groups of older women and found similar results.
The researchers at deCODE Genetics say other genes could also influence osteoporosis. They urged researchers outside Iceland to do more studies into the effects of the B-M-P-two gene. They say better understanding of the genetics of osteoporosis could lead to new and more effective drugs.
You can read their full report, free of charge, on the Internet at the Public Library of Science. The address is publiclibraryofscience -- all one word -- dot org.
The scientists in Iceland are now working with the company Roche Diagnostics to develop a test for increased risk of osteoporosis.
This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.