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Largest ever genetic study marks likely osteoporosis treatment target

Scientists are honing in on a potential treatment for osteoporosis, after performing the largest ever genetic study of the common age-related bone-thinning disease.

Researchers from The University of Queensland and McGill University in Canada led the study, identifying 153 new gene variants associated with the loss of bone mineral density, which often result in fractures.

UQ Diamantina Institute researchers Dr John Kemp and Professor David Evans found a strongly implicated gene GPC6, which had not previously been linked to osteoporosis.

“What makes this gene particularly interesting is that it encodes a protein that is present on the surface of cells, making it a potential candidate for a drug target,” Professor Evans said.

“Our studies show that removing it in animal models resulted in an increase in bone thickness.”

One in 10 Australians aged over 50 have osteoporosis or low bone mineral density, and the disease is more common in women than in men.