Three genes which account for 70% of cases of a painful bone condition have been identified by Scottish scientists
It is hoped the finding could lead to a screening test for Paget's disease, which affects up to one million people in the UK, Nature Genetics reported.
The genes are thought to regulate bone repair and may explain why the bones of people with the condition become enlarged and malformed.
Screening could help doctors target preventive treatment at an early stage.
The international team led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied the DNA of 1,250 patients with Paget's disease to pinpoint the genes that cause the condition.
It showed three genes that were faulty more frequently in patients with the bone disease than in healthy people.
Together they account for seven in ten cases, they said. The findings explain why many patients with Paget's disease have a family history of the condition.
A screening test for the genes could allow early detection of the disease and enable doctors to give preventative treatment before bones have become damaged.
It adds to another gene which had already been found in 10% of cases.
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