More than a dozen genes have been identified that may play a role in developing bone density and strength, important factors in the fight against osteoporosis.

After studying genome-wide association studies (GWAS), Charles Farber, PhD, from the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Center for Public Health Genomics, and his team, including researchers at the University of Maryland, Yale and Maine Medical Center Research Institute, identified genes that appeared to work together, and then they mapped those genes onto the locations identified by GWAS.

By cross-referencing the two, they were able to predict 33 genes that they believe are responsible for controlling bone density. Eighteen of the genes had been shown previously to play a role, but the other 15 were new, explains a media release from University of Virginia Health System.

“Many were genes known to have a role in the regulation of bone mineral density. In fact, over half of them were,” Farber notes in the release. “So that was a good proof of principle.”

The researchers have since tested two of the previously unknown genes and confirmed that they contribute to controlling bone mineral density. Although the research team doesn’t expect that their predictions will have a 100% success rate, they believe the technique has great promise for helping accelerate the process of determining gene function. And by more quickly understanding gene function, they accelerate the process of developing new drugs to target those genes to treat disease.

“This was a way that we could take existing data and make predictions without going [gene] locus by locus without any direction. At least now we have hypotheses that we can test,” Farber continues in the release. “I think that will speed up future attempts at trying to figure out which genes are truly causative.”

Their research was published recently in Cell Systems.

[Source(s): University of Virginia Health System, Science Daily]