Link found between stress fracture injuries and genes

Certain genes can contribute towards a person’s susceptibility to stress fracture injuries, according to a new study.

Certain genes can contribute towards a person’s susceptibility to stress fracture injuries, according to a new study. The research, involving Nottingham Trent University, provides a platform for further research into providing a personalised health approach to this common sports injury.

A stress fracture is a fatigue-induced fracture of the bone caused by repeated pressure over time. Unlike normal fractures, stress fractures are the result of accumulated trauma from repeated mechanical usage, such as running or jumping. As such, stress fractures are common injuries for athletes and military personnel.

The effect of heavy repeated mechanical usage causes an amalgamation of micro-damage in bone. The body responds to this through a process known as ‘bone remodelling’, in which damaged bone is removed and healthy bone is deposited. Bone remodelling occurs continuously throughout our lives and helps us keep our bones healthy.

The research also involved Headquarters Army Recruiting and Training Division; the Sheba Medical Centre; the University of Liverpool; the University of Sheffield; the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence in Canada; Cardiff Metropolitan University; the University of East Anglia; and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

It aimed to identify the contribution a specific gene had to stress fracture injuries in two groups of volunteers made up of military recruits and elite athletes.

The researchers evaluated the contribution the specific gene, P2X7R, had on the volunteers. In the past they showed that mutations in this gene are associated with low lumbar spine bone mineral density and accelerated bone loss in post-menopausal women.

Dr Ian Varley, lecturer in exercise physiology in Nottingham Trent University’s Musculoskeletal Physiology Research Group, said: “This is the first study to show associations between P2X7 polymorphisms and stress fracture injury prevalence in elite athletes. The findings may go some way to explain why certain athletes develop stress fracture injuries while their team mates, with equivalent training intensity and volume, remain injury free.

These data add to previous research from the same research group showing associations between genotype and susceptibility to stress fracture injury.

Dr Ian Varley, Nottingham Trent University

“These data add to previous research from the same research group showing associations between genotype and susceptibility to stress fracture injury. These findings may assist with future research investigating the extent to which genotype influences susceptibility to bone injury and disease.”

Jim Gallagher, Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, added: “The genetic predisposition to develop a stress fracture is still a relatively new research area and our understanding of the risks that predispose individuals to develop a stress fracture is still very limited.

“The study found that two specific variations within the gene were associated with stress fracture injuries in healthy, exercising individuals. The precise mechanism by which these variations may influence stress fracture risk is unknown, but may include decreased sensitivity of bone to mechanical loading or adverse changes to specific bone cells.

“The findings are the first to demonstrate an independent association between stress fracture injury and specific variations in purinergic receptor genes. This work builds on pioneering basic laboratory research over several years in which we first showed that purinergic receptors are expressed in bone cells and that they regulate the response of bone to mechanical loading.

“Further work with a larger sample group is needed to explain the mechanisms at work and to help us develop preventative measures and more suitable personalised treatments.”

The paper, entitled ‘Functional polymorphisms in the P2X7 receptor gene are associated with stress fracture injury’, is published in The Official Journal of the International Purine Club.

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    The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was awarded to Nottingham Trent University in November 2015.  It is the highest national honour for a UK university and recognises the institution’s world-class research. Pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula, and combat food fraud, led to the prestigious award.

Link found between stress fracture injuries and genes

Published on 19 February 2016
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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