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HOW DO GENES AND MATERNAL AND CHILDHOOD LIFESTYLES CONTRIBUTE TO BONE STRENGTH?

2004 IOF Claus Christiansen Research Fellowships, worth euro 45,000, awarded to two researchers from Denmark and UK

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil
May 17, 2004

Two researchers, who study the earliest and most fundamental determinants of osteoporosis risk --genes and maternal and childhood lifestyles -- today received International Osteoporosis Foundation fellowships.

The 2004 IOF Claus Christiansen Research Fellowship, valued at euro 45,000, was shared by the two researchers - Dr Yu Zhao Bagger from Denmark and Dr M. Kassim Javaid from the UK.

The awards were presented by Prof. René Rizzoli, chairman of the IOF Committee of Scientific Advisors, at the IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Bagger, of the Center for Clinical and Basic Research in Ballerup, Denmark, is hunting for genes that might predispose people to develop osteoporosis. Javaid, of the University of Southampton. UK, investigates the impact on bone development of early environmental factors, such as the mother's diet before birth and the child's diet. What these scientists have in common is the respect of senior scientists in their field.

"These awards reflect both the originality of Bagger's and Javaid's proposed studies and the very solid base of data that they and their collaborators have already built," said Rizzoli, a member of jury for the award.

Are there specific genes that indicate osteoporosis risk?

Yu Zhao Bagger was awarded for her work in evaluating the roles of the numerous genes that are likely to play a role in developing osteoporosis.

Bagger is the principal investigator of the Prospective Epidemiological Risk Factors (PERF) study of genetic and environmental risk factors for osteoporosis in 6500 postmenopausal Danish women. "It was a particularly exciting moment for me when we finished the clinical examinations in July 2001, thereby establishing a huge database to help us evaluate the roles of the many genes that have been suggested to play a role in the risk of developing osteoporosis," said Bagger.

The number of genes which have an impact on osteoporosis continues to grow as researchers pay more attention to the role of genetics in this disease. Bagger's study is one of the first attempts to identify the role of various genes on generating fragility fractures.

"Another unexplored area we are researching is whether having variations in some of these genes means that women will have different responses to the therapies postulated to protect against fractures, such as bisphosphonate drugs and hormone replacement therapy," said Bagger.

"The large scale of our study will allow us to look at this question, and the IOF award will be a big help in that regard."

What's Father got to do with it?

M. Kassim Javaid is approaching the question of risk factors for osteoporosis from another direction, assessing the factors in early life that contribute to low bone mass in adulthood. Low adult bone mass is known to increase the risk of fragility fractures later in life.

"We were the first to describe how the amount of calcium present in the umbilical cord blood at birth predicts the bone size of the child at nine years," said Javaid. "We have also demonstrated how levels of maternal vitamin D in late pregnancy affect bone growth in childhood."

For these findings, Javaid has already been awarded young investigator awards from the British Society of Rheumatology and the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research.

"International fellowships are highly competitive and the IOF Christiansen fellowship is especially prestigious," said Javaid, who will use the award to extend this line of research to the paternal influences of bone health.

Javaid's work builds on research undertaken by the U.K. Medical Research Council's Environmental Epidemiology Unit, which is studying the lifestyles and body composition of 12,000 young women. Their ultimate goal is to study how these factors relate to bone health in the children born to the women as the study progresses. To date, approximately two thousand children have been "born" into the study.

Javaid will supervise a new direction in the study, assessing the bone mass and body composition of the childrens' fathers. "We hope to determine whether the lifestyles and body compositions of the fathers help determine the bone mass of their offspring," said Javaid.

IOF Claus Christiansen Research Fellowship

Professor Claus Christiansen is well-known for his research into osteoporosis, and was a founding member of the European Foundation For Osteoporosis (which merged with the International Federation of Societies on Skeletal Diseases - IFSSD - to create IOF). He was an IOF Board member until 1999. In honor of his contribution to the field of osteoporosis prevention and treatment, IOF has established this IOF Claus Christiansen Research Fellowship.

The fellowship is offered every other year and is valued at euro 45.000. Applications are invited from all qualified individuals working with IOF's Committee of National Societies (CNS) and IOF Committee of Scientific Advisors (CSA).

ENDS

The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) is a worldwide organization dedicated to the fight against osteoporosis. It brings together scientists, physicians, patient societies and corporate partners. Working with its 165 member societies in more than 85 locations, and other healthcare-related organizations around the world, IOF encourages awareness and prevention, early detection and improved treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, in which the bones become porous and break easily, is one of the world's most common and debilitating diseases. The result: pain, loss of movement, inability to perform daily chores, and in many cases, death. One out of three women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will one out of eight men(1). Unfortunately, screening for people at risk is far from being a standard practice. Osteoporosis can, to a certain extent, be prevented, it can be easily diagnosed and effective treatments are available.

1 Melton U, Chrischilles EA, Cooper C et al. How many women have osteoporosis? Journal of Bone Mineral Research, 1992; 7:1005-10

For more information on the IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis, including access to all the abstracts and press releases, please refer to: www.osteofound.org

Find out if you are at risk, take the IOF One Minute Risk Test at: www.osteofound.org

For further information, please contact
Paul Spencer Sochaczewski, Head of Communications,
International Osteoporosis Foundation:

Tel. +41 22 994 0100
Fax. +41 22 994 0101
E-mail: psochaczewski@osteofound.org

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