New Techniques of Bone Analysis Reveal Insights

Deepak Vashishth, PhD.

Department Head, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Project Lead – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Shoulder x-ray.

Shoulder x-ray.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed a technique using “laser-capture microscopy” that allows researchers to collect large amounts of biochemical information from nanoscale bone samples. Since bone is a heterogeneous combination of several types of cells woven or stacked together, prior studies of larger sections of bone provided information that was defined by this matrix.

The new technique will give researchers the ability to determine the exact composition of the bone at a microscopic point of incident and thereby determine the relationships between the amino acid building blocks of the proteins at the site and the injury or disease. Current studies are targeting osteoporosis, but there are great implications for the deeper understanding of many bone affecting diseases. Laser capture microscopy will also allow archaeological, anthropological, and forensic studies of the tiniest bone fragments while exposing a great deal of very specific information about its owner’s lifestyle and habits.

Laser-capture microscopy uses a 5µm thick slice of bone that is 0.00014 mm in size. Because of the small size of the sample, researchers can micro-dissect the tiny, homogenous sections of bone under direct microscopic visualization and identify the structural and metabolic variations within them. These variations can then be analyzed to determine their pertinence to disease.

RPI’s use of laser-capture microscopy and biochemical analysis has already disproved the previously accepted model of the chemical components of aging collagen molecules in bone. The classical belief that levels of pentosidine, a biomarker for damage to proteins, decreased in older bone was shown to actually be the exact opposite; it increases as bones age. This discovery is a result of the analysis of very small and therefore pure samples as opposed to the previously available collagen fusion. The study also revealed variations in the statistically accepted levels of the major bone matrix proteins, collagen, osteocalcin and osteopontin, which affect bone fragility. Correcting these misconceptions will allow more exact and specific next-generation drug design and advancement in the treatment of bone disease such as osteoporosis.

TFOT has previously reported on other bone related topics including the article “TiFoam Titanium Bone” describing a titanium foam to be used for replacing injured bone. Another related TFOT story describes the from tobacco plants.
To find out more about the techniques described in this article, please read the original study here.