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Fundamental discovery -- Bone fracture

d heart disease can kill you but bone fracture and arthritis make you miserable," he said. "Once a serious bone fracture occurs, then quality of life goes down. Less than one-third of elderly women who have a hip fracture return to previous function. More women die within a year of hip fracture than die after a heart attack. So it's a very serious problem and a lot of work has been done to develop good diagnostics. The leading diagnostic is bone mineral density."

Measuring bone mineral density is valuable because it reveals how much bone a person has left. The amount of an individual's bone mineral density peaks around age 30, then decreases for the rest of his or her life. By the time the person becomes elderly, very serious bone loss may have occurred.

"As if this weren't bad enough, it is also true that the materials properties of the bone decrease with age," said Hansma. "Not only is there less bone, but what exists is less strong. The cause of this is not well understood. Our research is aimed at understanding that."

Hansma noted that bone has been studied extensively since Galileo. "Galileo wrote a really nice paper about bone, describing why elephants need thicker bones than small animals." He said that a paper on bone is published every six minutes. And although bone is extensively studied, little is known about how it works at the molecular level. "Our paper is the beginning research on this."

Hansma and his colleagues at UCSB have pioneered the use of the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) in looking at the nano-scale level of biological materials ?down to a billionth of a meter. Before the use of the AFM, it was impossible to see these tiny molecular structures.


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Source:University of California - Santa Barbara


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