Researchers at The University of Western Australia have located a new gene that may help predict who will develop osteoporosis in later life.
The breakthrough research has been published online today in the prestigious international science journal American Journal of Human Genetics.
Co-author Associate Professor Richard Prince, from UWA's School of Medicine and Pharmacology, said osteoporosis was strongly related to gene variation.
"It is a genetic disorder exacerbated by damaging environmental influences, such as reduced mobility, lack of sunlight and lack of calcium," Associate Professor Prince said.
"In previous generations it was not so much of a problem because the environmental effects only catch up with the majority of us after the age of 60. What we have found is a new gene strongly related to bone structure, which is useful in predicting who may get into problems as they age.
"It will also help provide new insights into the mechanisms affecting the biology of bone structure. If we can clarify these mechanisms it will provide targets for new pharmaceutical interventions, as is already occurring based on the knowledge of other important biological mechanisms that cause osteoporosis."
Molecular geneticist and colleague Adjunct Associate Professor Scott Wilson added: "The prospect of personalized medicine and the use of genetic testing to obtain detailed genetic information on ordinary people to aid in disease prediction and management is getting closer.
"Genetic markers such as the ones we studied can be measured with precision years before the age at which osteoporosis can be detected or fractures begin to occur. Eventually, a panel of genetic markers including the ones we identified, could be used in addition to environmental risk factors to identify individuals most at risk for osteoporotic fractures. This could provide ample lead-time for preventive measures," Associate Professor Wilson said.