Detecting microcracks in bone

Synchrotron scans suggest osteoporosis drugs may weaken bone

Osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become fragile, affects around 200 million people across the world and contributes to 8.9 million fractures every year. The bisphosphonate (BP) family of drugs is widely used in the treatment for osteoporosis. BP prevents the loss of bone by slowing down the natural renewal process that breaks down old bone. Although BP has been shown to reduce the number of fractures due to osteoporosis, there is increasing evidence that the drug’s long-term effects may not be entirely positive.

The issue lies in microcracks, thinner than a human hair, which occur in bone as a natural result of wear and tear. In healthy bone, these cracks are naturally repaired. In patients treated with BP, microcracks can accumulate and affect the strength of the bone.

Microcracks are too small to be seen with laboratory imaging techniques, but recent experiments show – for the first time in human bone – that they can be measured with synchrotron light, via a technique called micro-CT.


>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website