New imaging technique reveals how likely you are to break a bone

October 25, 2005

Scientists have developed a technique which can be used to reveal the strength of bones, allowing doctors to more accurately estimate the risk of bone fracture.

According to research published online in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research, scientists have developed a laser imaging technique which can more fully assess the strength of bones, a technique the scientists hope can be used to predict the likelihood of young women developing osteoporosis in later life.

Dr Edward Draper of Imperial College London and the Royal Veterinary College, and lead researcher, said: "Traditionally, the only way to predict bone strength has been through X-rays, but these can only measure part of the strength of the bone. Using this new technique we can get a more complete measurement, allowing us to predict better the risk of fractures as a result of osteoporosis."

Although X-rays can be used to measure bone strength, they can only be used to measure bone mineral density, which only accounts for part of the strength. The new Raman spectroscopic technique allows scientists to measure the collagen, which also affects bone strength by eliminating the spectral components of overlying tissues.

The scientists plan to develop this work into a test for women during adolescence to predict the likelihood of osteoporosis developing in later life. By taking steps earlier on, such as increasing exercise to build up bone mass, this could prevent the need for more interventions such as Risedronate (Actonel) later.

Dr Draper adds: "We hope we can further develop this technique, and use it as part of a national screening programme which hopefully could be done in any GP's surgery. By identifying the risk of any problems developing early enough, this could not only make an enormous difference to the health of individuals, but could help the NHS by negating the need for more extreme and costly interventions later."

The research team are from Imperial College London, the Royal Veterinary College, University College London, University of Michigan, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, spectral components of overlying tissues.
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Imperial College London

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