University of Aberdeen - Tripped up by genes

November 4, 2010

It is not just old age that causes wobbly pensioners to fall down the stairs - their genes could be at fault, too. Scientists at the University of Aberdeen have found that elderly women with a variant of the gene ACTN3, which has been linked to muscle strength in elite athletes, are more likely to fall. Everyone has two copies of the gene inherited from their parents, affecting muscle power, but only 30 per cent of the population has two copies of the gene that are fully functioning. The study shows that women with non-functioning variations of the gene were at higher risk of falls in later life. Lynne Hocking, research Fellow in Aberdeen's musculo-skeletal research group, said: "This is a first step towards identifying groups of people at high risk of falling."

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