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The absence of this protein leads to rapid and severe bone loss

A new University at Buffalo study published on March 7 in the Journal of Dental Research found that when the gene needed to produce the protein tristetraprolin (TTP) was removed from healthy mice, the rodents’ bones took on the form of a much older animal.

One function of the TTP protein is to regulate inflammation–a reaction that can be considered a good thing when it’s produced by the immune system to protect the body from injury or infection–but that can lead to the destruction of bones and prevention of bone formation if not controlled, according to ScienceDaily. TTP production decreases with age, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis and periodontitis in the elderly.

Researchers who conducted the study hope to better understand TTP’s role in humans with a goal of creating more effective therapeutic approaches to these conditions.