Osteoporosis is partly a result of ageing and increases the risk of bone fractures. Approximately half of all women experience an increased risk of bone fracture after menopause. The most common scenario is that people suffering from osteoporosis first break their wrist and then, later in life, the femoral neck, often resulting in severe complications.
“Most bones heal well, but 5–10 % of all fractures don’t”, says Hanna Isaksson, associate professor of biomechanics at Lund University. “The purpose of our research is to find new ways of improving the bone’s ability to heal by creating more new bone faster. The bone should also be stronger”, she says.
People who suffer from osteoporosis have a weaker skeleton, partly due to a reduced amount of bone mineral, but also related to changes in the structure of the bone tissue and the way its crystals are constructed.
The bone tissue and crystal structures can be measured with the help of synchrotron light at MAX IV Laboratory. Here, researchers are able to study the nanostructure in bone by illuminating it, using synchrotron radiation, in order to understand changes in the bone when affected by osteoporosis. This is an active new field of research which uses the techniques of infrared spectroscopy* (FTIR) as well as diffraction experiments, Small Angle X-ray Scattering** (SAXS).
“The purpose of the first experiments here at MAX IV Laboratory is to test if the methods work, that is, if they are sensitive enough to detect differences between normal bone and bone affected by osteoporosis. If the methods work well, we hope to eventually be able to conduct clinical experiments studying small bone biopsies from patients”, says Hanna
The research techniques available at MAX IV Laboratory can help researchers find out more about bone structure and how it changes in osteoporosis. The researchers hope that the experiments at MAX IV will contribute to advances in the development of drugs to treat osteoporosis and bone fractures that tend to heal poorly.
* Infrared spectroscopy – infrared light is used to illuminate a sample and the amount of radiation that is absorbed by the sample is measured.
** Small Angle X-ray Scattering – an X-ray scattering technique that provides structural information about materials, including non-crystalline materials, such as cellulose or proteins in solution.