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Researchers from the University have located several genes that play a key role in the development of bones -- information which could be a vital link to curing bone disease. Researchers announced last week that they had mapped the chromosomal locations of several genes that are responsible for the formation and regeneration of bone in human beings. "It is really one step in a very exciting series of investigations begun by others," said Pediatrics Professor Michael Zasloff, one of the bone researchers. "The genes that have been mapped are involved in the expression of proteins that are believed to start up the whole program of bone growth in man." Zasloff added that finding the chromosomal locations of the bone-forming genes is important since the gene-forming proteins may eventually be used to repair bones in the form of medication. "The research is exciting because the proteins have extraordinary potential as drugs," Zasloff said. "We imagine that it may even be possible to build portions of human skeleton by introducing pure proteins." "These tools are landmarks we can use for mapping various diseases in the formation of bone," said Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Frederick Kaplan, the other leader of the study team. "We have the potential to shed light on disease in bone growth." According to Zasloff, once the chromosomal location is identified, researchers will be able to associate defects with these genes. Some researchers believe that particular genes may be responsible for rearrangements of chromosones and genetic defects. The localization of the genes may make it possible to focus on some genetic diseases and find a cure specific to that gene. Zasloff speculated that in the future, new bone diseases may appear due to mutations in the genes, adding that the research could then be a valuable crutch to finding a cure. But there are also several bone diseases now existing that researchers are trying to cure. The research team was originally organized to promote research of a particular bone disease, Fibrodystalsia Ossificans Progressiva -- an extremely rare disease in which tissues surrounding the muscles of a child form bone and eventually, the entire body is practically incased in bone. All the researchers contacted this week agreed that their findings are only one step in the continual investigation of bone disease and genetics. "We play a small part in a process that began years ago," Kaplan said. "We were fortunate to work with pioneeers." According to Zasloff, the bone proteins were discovered by Marshall Urist, director of the University of California at Los Angeles Bone Research Laboratory, in 1982. "I think that the predictions about this family of protiens will play an important role in human development, and over the next several years, we will see and hear of presence with increasing frequency," Zasloff said. Yet, both Zasloff and Kaplan will not take credit for discovering the location of the genes. Both researchers point to Jeffrey Tabas, lead author of the investigation and fourth-year Medical student, saying he deserves the credit. "The credit does not belong to me it belongs to Jeff," Kaplan added. Tabas did not return several phone messages placed at his room over the past week.

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