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Bad to the bone: UD research to shed light on osteoporosis
Date:11/15/2007

Ten million people in the United States are estimated to already have bone diseases, and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Liyun Wang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware, knows the serious consequences of osteoporosis.

Two of Wang's aunts have suffered from the insidious bone-thinning disease, and one aunt died within a year after falling and fracturing her hip.

Wang is now leading research that will shed light on how osteocytes--the cells encased inside your bones--sense external stimuli and communicate with cells on the surface, signaling them to either build more bone or remove existing bone.

The five-year, $1.6 million project, ranked in the top 5 percent of research proposals recommended for funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) this year, holds promise in unveiling the mysteries of bone and joint diseases afflicting people worldwide.

The results may not only help scientists home in on the cause of osteoporosis and arthritis, but also develop more effective drug therapies to treat the debilitating bone and joint diseases.

The project will involve an interdisciplinary team of investigators at UD, including Prof. Mary C. Farach-Carson and Associate Prof. Randall Duncan, who hold primary appointments in biological sciences with joint appointments in mechanical engineering, and John Novotny, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Bone and joint disorders affect almost half of all people over 50 years old, at a cost of $250 billion annually in the United States, Wang said. A third of the people who suffer a fracture due to bone loss end up dying within a year.

The embedded bone cells, or osteocytes, that Wang is studying, act like the bone's brain.

The osteocytes are very smart, Wang says. They
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware  
Source:Eurekalert

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