Scientists have discovered a gene gene that could lead to a treatment for osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease, in three to five years. Researchers at Chiroscience, a UK-based biotechnology company, have identified the genetic code for a protein that appears to regulate bone mineral density.
The gene was isolated from a study of the Afrikaner population in South Africa where one in 160 people carries one copy of the gene for sclerosteosis, a condition which causes bones to continue to gain mass throughout an affected person's life.
John Padfield, chief executive of Chiroscience Group Ltd, explained that their goal is to design a compound that mimics the action of the gene, leading to development of a drug that can stimulate growth. Occurring most commonly in older people, osteoporosis affects more than three million people in the UK, costing the National Health Service £940m each year.