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Genome Med. 2009 Sep 7;1(9):84. doi: 10.1186/gm84.

How genomics has informed our understanding of the pathogenesis of osteoporosis.

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Department of Oral Biology, University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Dentistry, 650 East 25th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108, USA.


Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength that predisposes a person to an increased risk of fracture. Osteoporosis is a complex trait that involves multiple genes, environmental factors, and gene-gene and gene-environment interactions. Twin and family studies have indicated that between 25% and 85% of the variation in bone mass and other skeletal phenotypes is heritable, but our knowledge of the underlying genes is limited. Bone mineral density is the most common assessment for diagnosing osteoporosis and is the most often used quantitative value in the design of genetic studies. In recent years, our understanding of the pathophysiology of osteoporosis has been greatly facilitated by advances brought about by the Human Genome Project. Genetic approaches ranging from family studies of monogenic traits to association studies with candidate genes, to whole-genome scans in both humans and animals have identified a small number of genes that contribute to the heritability of bone mass. Studies with transgenic and knockout mouse models have revealed major new insights into the biology of many of these identified genes, but much more needs to be learned. Ultimately, we hope that by revealing the underlying genetics and biology driving the pathophysiology of osteoporosis, new and effective treatment can be developed to combat and possibly cure this devastating disease. Here we review the rapidly evolving field of the genomics of osteoporosis with a focus on important gene discoveries, new biological/physiological paradigms that are emerging, and many of the unanswered questions and hurdles yet to be overcome in the field.


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