X-ray-based diagnostics, by far the most widely used techniques for diagnosing bone disorders and diseases, are largely blind to the protein component of bone. But proteins determine important mechanical properties of bone, and changes in proteins have been associated with a number of bone diseases. Now, British researchers have demonstrated the use of spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS) to detect a known compositional abnormality in the bones of a patient suffering from the genetic bone disorder osteogenesis imperfecta ("brittle bone disease").1 The work confirms the principle that bone diseases in living patients can be detected noninvasively, and points the way to larger studies that focus on osteoporosis and other chronic debilitating bone diseases.
The SORS method involves shining a laser through the skin to analyze the underlying chemistry of the bone, and can reveal differences between healthy and diseased bone. The research team includes scientists from University College London (UCL; London, England), the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC; Swindon, Wiltshire, England), and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH; also in London). The custom-built SORS instrument was developed by Cobalt Light Systems (Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England).
According to Allen Goodship of UCL's Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, who led the research, the SORS method could become a routine tool that doctors can use during an annual check-up. This would allow physicians to advise patients on lifestyle changes that could slow the progress of the disease. With regular screening, SORS could monitor effects directly, he said.
1. K. Buckley et al., IBMS BoneKEy, 11, 602 (2014); doi:10.1038/bonekey.2014.97.