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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Osteoporosis in the Genes?

Gene May Affect Bone Mineral Density and Osteoporosis Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 28, 2007 -- Scientists have found a gene that may affect the odds of developing osteoporosis.

The gene is called the DARC gene. It makes a protein needed to help break down bone.

Some variations in the DARC gene boost production of that protein, ultimately lowering bone mineral density, the scientists say.

They studied the DARC gene in mice. They say their finding may eventually lead to new osteoporosis treatments.

In osteoporosis, the bones become dangerously thin, making fractures more likely. Low bone mineral density can lead to osteoporosis.

Genetics and other factors (including age, sex, diet, and lifestyle) affect osteoporosis risk.

Scientists hunting for osteoporosis genes include Subburaman Mohan, PhD, professor of medicine and biochemistry at California's Loma Linda University.

Mohan's team studied the DARC gene and bone mineral density in female mice.

The researchers measured the bone mineral density in the mice's femur (a leg bone).

Some of the mice had low bone mineral density. Those mice had different DNA patterns in the DARC gene -- and more bone breakdown -- compared with other mice.

The scientists also studied female mice lacking the DARC gene. Those mice had higher bone mineral density and less bone breakdown than mice with the DARC gene.

Mohan and colleagues conclude that certain variations in the DARC gene may influence bone mineral density.

"If our finding using the mouse model is confirmed in humans, then we may be able to develop therapies that are based on inhibiting the function of the DARC gene," Mohan states in a news release.

However, the findings don't mean that the DARC gene is the only gene that may affect osteoporosis risk. In fact, many genes likely influence bone mass, note the researchers.

Their study appears online in Genome Research.

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