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SCAN: Delivering Bone Disorder Diagnosis, Fracture Healing
Date:2/18/2009

can detect bone mineral density. In addition, we can assess bone quality, such as stiffness, and then predict the risk of fracture," Qin said. "Overall bone quality assessment, including strength and structure, is essential because the risk of fracture is probably more related to the quality of a bone rather than the density of a bone alone."

On Earth, X-ray machines are the standard tools of choice for monitoring bone health, but they are only used to detect bone mineral density. X-ray machines are not ideal for use in space due to the health risk radiation poses to astronauts, who are exposed to higher levels of radiation outside of Earth's protective atmosphere and magnetic field.

Qin is currently conducting clinical evaluations of the diagnostic part of the technology. The mobile device runs off of a laptop computer, and an image of the heel or wrist can be completed in about five minutes. Also under development is the capability to scan the knee and hip.

Meanwhile, the group is continuing development of the therapeutic portion of the technology. On Earth, it takes six weeks to heal a fracture in normal conditions. The healing process may take longer in space. He said the device will help accelerate fracture healing by stimulating bone regeneration.

Ultrasound has been used to heal fractures, but it has not been effective due to its lack of accuracy at the fracture site. This is where Qin's guided approach will be beneficial. "We are trying to use ultrasound technology as a way to get an image of the fracture site," Qin said. "An integrated probe will directly shoot ultrasound into the region of the fracture. We hope this will result in effective acceleration of fracture healing."

SCAN technology will be an ideal tool for health care providers on Earth who are dealing with an increasing elderly population and for those in rural areas where access to medical facilities is limite
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SOURCE National Space Biomedical Research Institute
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