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Eric Crockhart reports
"Condition causes pain, deformity and easily broken bones"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 January, 2000, 17:07 GMT
Gene breakthrough prompts treatment hope

Microscope The researchers were working with scientists in Belfast and Seattle

A breakthrough by scientists in Aberdeen could lead to new treatment for thousands suffering from a crippling bone disease.

Researchers at Aberdeen University have identified a gene that causes familial expansile osteolysis (FEO) - a very rare but severe form of the painful Paget's disease.

They hope the identification of the gene will eventually help lead to new treatments for tens of thousands of people in Scotland who have a more common form of the condition.

We're working on that at present and we very much hope that, in the next year or two, further discoveries will follow this one
Prof Stuart Ralston
The Aberdeen researchers are part of an international team of scientists who have located the gene.

Christina Fraser nearly died three years ago when doctors first discovered she had Paget's disease, a condition which causes pain, deformity and easily broken bones.

Slow recovery

At the time, the 80-year old great-grandmother from Aberdeen was undergoing an operation for a broken leg that would not heal properly.

Mrs Fraser said: "It was during an operation. I had a fracture. They couldn't get the bleeding stopped and that's when they discovered that I had Paget's disease."

Christine Fraser Christina Fraser: Nearly died
Since then Mrs Fraser has made a slow but steady recovery, progressing from a wheelchair to a zimmer, then a stick.

Researchers in Aberdeen, Belfast and Seattle have now identified the gene that causes FEO and hope this will help them identify other genes which cause the much more common Paget's disease.

Professor Stuart Ralston said: "Basically, although we know the gene that is responsible for FEO is not responsible for the majority of cases of Paget's disease, what it does is tells us where to look for the other genes.

Further discoveries hope

"We're working on that at present and we very much hope that, in the next year or two, further discoveries will follow this one."

The discovery of the gene is said to have particular significance for Britain.

Paget's disease affects about three percent of the population over the age of 55 - meaning there are 10s of thousands of sufferers in Scotland alone who could eventually benefit from new treatments.

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