Gene found that may contribute to falls in postmenopausal women

Research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences shows that a variant of the gene ACTN3 - which has been linked with muscle strength and power in athletes - is a risk factor for falling in postmenopausal females who are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.

All humans have two copies of the ACTN3 gene, which are inherited from parents. Genes affect how the ACTN3 protein is expressed in muscle fibres, which in turn affects muscle power and strength. A total of 30 percent of the population has two copies of the gene that are fully functioning, while most people have non-functioning variations of this gene.

However, researchers have now discovered that elderly women with the gene variant are more at risk of falls, which is unrelated to whether they have one or two copies of the non-functional variants.

Scientists studied two groups of Caucasian postmenopausal women from the North of Scotland Osteoporosis Study and the Aberdeen Prospective Osteoporosis Screening Study. They found that women with the gene variant were on average 33 percent more likely to fall than those with two fully functioning copies.

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