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Genetic Factors in Determining Bone Mass

David M. Smith, Walter E. Nance, Ke Won Kang, Joe C. Christian and C. Conrad Johnston, Jr.

Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202

Published November 1973

This investigation was undertaken to evaluate possible genetic determinants of bone mass with the premise that inheritance of bone mass could be of etiologic importance in osteoporosis.

Bone mass and width measurements were made with the photon absorption technique on the right radius of 71 juvenile and 80 adult twin paris. The variance of intrapair differences of bone mass in monozygotic (MZ) juvenile twins was 0.0013 g2/cm2 compared to 0.0052 g2/cm2 in the dizygotic (DZ) twins. For the adult twins the variance of intrapair differences in bone mass was 0.0069 for MZ and 0.0137 for DZ twins. Similar results were obtained for bone width. The significantly larger variation in intrapair differences in DZ twins indicates that these traits have significant genetic determinants. These intrapair differences were found to increase with age, suggesting that genetic-environmental interaction also contributes to the observed variation in bone mass.

These data provide evidence that bone mass does have significant genetic factors, which alone or in conjunction with environmental factors may predispose persons to the development of osteoporosis.

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