Researchers use infrared light to find signs of osteoporosis

Researchers at the University of Rochester in New York are developing a new way to monitor bone health and search for signs of osteoporosis using infrared light. At Frontiers in Optics 2010, Jason Maher, Andrew Berger and their colleagues will present ongoing studies of the effects of steroids on the bones of mice.

Steroids are commonly prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, studies have shown that they raise the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Researchers treated laboratory mice with steroids and with various treatments meant to counteract the side effect. They were challenged with how to assess the mice bones' structural integrity. Removing the bone and measuring the amount of force needed to snap it in half can only be performed by killing the animal. Standard X-ray techniques can noninvasively determine bone mineral density, but can be a poor predictor of fracture risk in humans with steroid-induced osteoporosis.

The Rochester team is developing a new technique that promises to be non-invasive, based on a technique called Raman spectroscopy. By measuring how light scatters off the materials inside bone, they have been able to calculate the relative amounts of mineral and protein matrix of intact bones. 

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