A screening test for a painful bone condition which affects as many as one million people in the UK could now be possible after scientists in Scotland identified three genes linked to the condition.
The three genes account for 70% of cases of Paget's disease, Nature Genetics reported.
Bones of people with the condition become enlarged and malformed and it might be because the genes regulate bone repair. Preventive treatment at an early stage may be possible if screening proves successful.
Work was carried out to pinpoint the genes that cause the condition by an international team led by researchers from the University of Edinburgh who looked at the DNA of 1,250 people with Paget's.
They discovered that often there were three faulty genes in patients with the condition compared with healthy people. They account for seven in 10 cases, the researchers found.
Often Paget's disease sufferers have a family history of the condition, a fact which fits with the researchers' findings.
Doctors could provide preventative treatment before bones have become damaged, by a screening test for the genes which could allow early detection of the disease.
A screening test was a real possibility because the effects of the genes were so powerful, Professor Stuart Ralston, who led the project at the University of Edinburgh, concluded.