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Although much scientific research has been done into the development of the skeleton, the underlying mechanisms that drive the formation and maintenance of bones are still not very well understood, and research into the development of bone remains of enormous importance. To date, 20 percent of women at the age of 65 years develop osteoporosis, and 40 percent of elderly men suffering a hip fracture die within the year during the recovery. Skeletal diseases are still among the most frequent syndromes in Western population that result in high mortality, urging scientists to research into better cures.
To gain more insight into these bone diseases, researchers at the Center for Medical Genetics Ghent (CMGG, Ghent Univeristy, www.cmgg.be) and the Ghent University hospital have developed a revolutionary zebrafish model that allows the detailed study of the build-up and breakdown of bone in the body. These two processes are balanced in a normal skeleton, but can become unbalanced in diseases such as osteoporosis, causing the loss of too much bone and making the skeleton prone to fractures. Zebrafish, a small tropical bony fish, is highly suitable for research into the skeleton, and can reveal the biological processes in the human skeleton. This has for long been a very controversial topic in the scientific world; zebrafish as a disease model for bone disorders was questioned in part due to the large genetic distance (400 million...
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