New and Improved Bone Tests

Two new approaches to test bone density provide a simpler way to predict risk of osteoporosis.

By | June 23, 2011

Closeup of hip bonePATRIX VIA FLICKR

The current standard for predicting osteoporosis risk uses dual energy X-ray absorptiometry to measure bone mineral density. But studies suggest that the technique doesn’t accurately predict the risk of fracture. Now, two new approaches provide a more precise way to determine whether bones are prone to breaking.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute used a technique known as laser-capture microscopy to characterize the protein composition of a tiny sample of bone, which then could be used to determine the age of each bone section, according to a study to be published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. Because older bone is more fragile, the method was able to predict the sections of bone more likely to break. As well as helping diagnose osteoporosis, the technology could allow forensic scientists and archaeologists to analyze small bone samples without damaging them.

Another technique, being developed by Crescent Diagnostics, a University of Limerick-spinout biotech in Ireland, analyzes the chemical bonds in toenail clippings to assess the risk of osteoporosis. This quick and easy test could replace traditional bone mineral density exams, the company argues, and would be as simple as dropping a nail clipping in the mail for analysis.


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