Systems genetics: a novel approach to dissect the genetic basis of osteoporosis.
From the early 1990s to the middle of the last decade, the search for genes influencing osteoporosis proved difficult with few successes. However, over the last 5 years this has begun to change with the introduction of genome-wide association (GWA) studies. In this short period of time, GWA studies have significantly accelerated the pace of gene discovery, leading to the identification of nearly 100 independent associations for osteoporosis-related traits. However, GWA does not specifically pinpoint causal genes or provide functional context for associations. Thus, there is a need for approaches that provide systems-level insight on how associated variants influence cellular function, downstream gene networks, and ultimately disease. In this review we discuss the emerging field of "systems genetics" and how it is being used in combination with and independent of GWA to improve our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in bone fragility.