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Growing body of research links lead to osteoporosis

o $20 billion dollars is spent each year treating osteoporosis and related fractures.

An Ironic Growth Pattern

The pattern of growth in the skeleton determines the peak skeletal density of an individual, and this level is established by the time most people reach 20. Recent research completed at the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that lead adversely affects the normal maturation of the growth plate but does so in an odd way.

"As a child, lead appears to accelerate bone development and maturation, so that lead-exposed children actually have a higher bone density than those not exposed to environmental lead," said James Campbell, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Pediatrics and a co-investigator of the study. "But, we believe this higher bone density effect is short-lived, and in fact, we believe it actually prevents these children from achieving an optimal peak bone mass later on in life."

J. Edward Puzas, Ph.D., professor of Orthopaedics and director of the overall project, added that limiting peak bone mass has dire consequences as a person begins to age.

"When everyone begins to lose bone mass starting at around age 50, lead-exposed individuals are at a higher risk for bone fractures and osteoporosis and probably at an earlier age than the typical osteoporosis patient."

At what specific age lead-exposed individuals will plateau in bone growth, and at what age they will begin to lose more bone as older adults, is the focus of this clinical research. Puzas and Campbell have used their prior research to guesstimate when these two milestones occur, but are turning to sophisticated lead measurement devices to help them pinpoint exact timeframes.

"We believe that somewhere around age 20, we'll begin to see low-lead exposed individuals surpass high-lead exposed individuals in bone mass density," Campbell said. "Then, in the 50 to 60 age group the age at which any individuals will begin to exp
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Contact: Germaine Reinhardt
Germaine_Reinhardt@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-6517
University of Rochester Medical Center
27-Mar-2006


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