Commercial, Academic Collaboration Leads to Discovery of Bone Mass Gene

"Drink milk," advertisements demand. Fight osteoporosis before bone loss occurs. They make a good point, considering that nothing on the market will restore a significant amount of lost bone mass. Current therapies can only stop or help slow down the process. However, scientists at Chiroscience Research and Development in Bothell, Wash., hope to actually treat osteoporosis. They have identified a novel gene coding for a protein that may be involved in bone-density control. This "bone mass gene

Nadia Halim
Jun 6, 1999

"Drink milk," advertisements demand. Fight osteoporosis before bone loss occurs. They make a good point, considering that nothing on the market will restore a significant amount of lost bone mass. Current therapies can only stop or help slow down the process. However, scientists at Chiroscience Research and Development in Bothell, Wash., hope to actually treat osteoporosis.

They have identified a novel gene coding for a protein that may be involved in bone-density control. This "bone mass gene" is altered in all patients suffering from a rare bone growth disorder known as sclerosteosis. The condition is found in the Afrikaner (South African of Dutch descent) population and causes bones to gain mass throughout the affected person's life, the opposite of osteoporosis. Cells called osteoclasts dissolve worn-out bone while other cells called osteoblasts generate new bone. As people age, bone removal exceeds bone formation. When this happens too quickly or when people...