This month we'll take a deep dive into the newest studies and developments related to our bones and skeletal systems.
First, we'll learn about a new bone density scanner that may replace the DXA scans. This new technology has multiple implications for the diagnosis and monitoring of osteoporosis.
Then we'll hear about a new tool that aims to use data such as bone scans and other personal medical information to estimate skeletal age. You’ll find out why these researchers say your skeleton could be older or younger than you are.
Finally, we'll look at a study reporting on a remarkable accomplishment– a genetic map of osteocytes. You'll learn more about these important cells and what a deeper understanding of their functions can offer us.
New Bone Density Scan Technology
There is a new radiation-free bone density scanning technology that is set to become more widely available. Radiofrequency Echographic Multi Spectrometry (REMS) has been used throughout Europe and is now expanding to other areas of the globe.
The technology offers a safer alternative to radiation-based DXA scans, meaning it can be performed more often. The device creates a real-time image of bones, providing immediate data to medical professionals and patients alike.
“The earlier bone density changes are identified, the sooner medical and fitness professionals can steer patients and clients to make lifestyle changes to build bone mass and prevent further bone loss.
“The way we screen and diagnose patients with osteoporosis is finally changing for the better,” said Douglas Tefft, president of Echolight Medical North America. “The portability and ease of use of REMS technology means screening can begin earlier, better positioning patients and their health care providers to take meaningful steps to prevent the onset of osteoporosis rather than to treat the disease once fractures begin to impact quality of life.”1
A study of the effectiveness of the technology found that its results correlated with DXA scan results more than 90% of the time. Those researchers concluded that the device is diagnostically effective, based on their study of 4,307 women aged between 30 and 90.2
This new tool offers a safer means of testing bone density. That's great news. However, density is only one metric of bone quality.
Earlier detection of reduced bone density is an opportunity for changing diet and exercise habits to recover and maintain bone density. However, Big Pharma will inevitably encourage doctors to use this tool to prescribe osteoporosis drugs.
Radiofrequency Echographic Multi Spectrometry (REMS) is a radiation-free bone density scanning technology that is safer than DEXA scans. Used throughout Europe, it is now spreading to other parts of the world. It could help more patients prevent bone loss before it becomes severe.
A New Fracture Risk Prediction Tool
Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have created what they call a “skeletal age calculator.” The tool is supposed to predict the biological age of bones using a patient's age, bone density, fracture history, and health conditions.
Their process allows health care providers to assess a patient's fracture risk compared to the average fracture risk of people of different ages. The tool also estimates how fractures could change someone's life expectancy.
“In our new model, we quantified the intricate transitions between fracture, refracture and mortality. We define skeletal age as the age of an individual’s skeleton that results from their risk factors for fracture,” Professor Nguyen explained.
“Using this definition, we for instance estimated that a typical 70-year-old man who had sustained a fracture had a skeletal age of 75 years. But when the man had a second fracture his skeletal age rose to 87 years. This means the individual now has the same fracture risk profile as an 87-year-old man who has a healthy risk profile.”3
This diagnostic tool's value depends on what you do with the information. It could help patients realize they need to change their lifestyle to reduce their “skeletal age”. That might result in more people eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and living longer and more active lives.
On the other hand, the idea of having an “old skeleton” could be used to frighten patients into taking osteoporosis drugs. As Savers know, these drugs come with a variety of terrible side effects, and are not an effective intervention for improving bone health.
Researchers have developed a “skeletal age calculator” that uses bone density measurements and other health data to assess fracture risk. It then compares that risk to the average risk of people of different ages to determine if the patient has a risk level typically associated with a different age.
Researchers Map Genes That Control Bone Development
Researchers have mapped the genetic profile of osteocytes– the cells responsible for regulating bone development.
This sort of mapping has never been accomplished before because osteocytes are embedded within the hard mineral structure of bones, making them difficult to isolate. From this location, osteocytes perform an essential function. They monitor bone health and respond to damage and aging by signaling other cells to resorb or build bone.
Now we have a clear picture of the genetic makeup of these powerful bone regulators.
“This new information provides a kind of genetic shortlist we can look to when diagnosing bone diseases that have a genetic component,” says the study's first author Dr Scott Youlten, Research Officer in the Bone Biology Lab. “Identifying this unique genetic pattern will also help us find new therapies for bone disease and better understand the impacts of current therapies on the skeleton.”4
This new information about the genetic profile of osteocytes can help us understand why our body chooses to build new bone or not. It will be exciting to see what additional research and discoveries may stem from the work of these researchers– and how it will add to our understanding of the bone remodeling process.
The more we understand that process, the better we can support it through everyday choices such as diet and exercise.
Researchers have mapped the genetic profile of osteocytes, cells that help to regulate the bone remodeling process. This information could help with diagnosing genetic bone conditions.
What This Means To You
There is a great deal of work underway to improve our ability for assessing fracture risk and bone quality, as well as to understand the genetic mechanisms at work. Big Pharma will undoubtedly use these new tools and discoveries to push their ineffective and dangerous osteoporosis drugs on doctors and patients alike. Fortunately, Savers know better.
The holistic approach presented in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is backed by reams of scientific data and has only been strengthened by new studies. Unlike drug treatments, the Program is safe, effective, and offers additional health benefits instead of harmful side effects.
We'll keep sharing the latest news from the field of bone health so that you have the information you need to make the best possible choices for your wellbeing.