Inside Rensselaer
* Characterizing Bone Quality

Grazyna Sroga, a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Vashishth’s laboratory, prepares samples for analysis in the proteomics core facility at the Center of Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. Photo by Kris Qua

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Characterizing Bone Quality

A new technique developed at Rensselaer allows researchers to collect large amounts of biochemical information from nanoscale bone samples.

Along with adding important new insights into the fight against osteoporosis, this innovation opens up an entirely new proteomics-based approach to analyzing bone quality. It could even aid the archeological and forensic study of human skeletons.

“We’re able to take very small, nanoscale-sized bone samples, and determine the protein signatures of the bone,” said Deepak Vashishth, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, who led the study. “This is a relatively quick, easy way for us to determine the history of the bone — how and when it formed — as well as the quality of the bone, and its likelihood to fracture.”

Results of the study, titled “Biochemical Characterization of Major Bone-Matrix Proteins Using Nanoscale-Size Bone Samples and Proteomics Methodology,” were released online in late May by the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. The journal, published by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, also featured the paper in its print edition.

Along with adding important new insights into the fight against osteoporosis, this innovation opens up an entirely new proteomics-based approach to analyzing bone quality.

Bones are primarily composed of mineral, with the remaining amount comprising organic material. The vast majority of the organic material is collagen. The remaining non-collagenous organic material is a mixture of other proteins, which form an interlinked matrix. The quality of this matrix varies greatly with age, nutrition, and disease. Vashishth and his research group investigate this bone matrix to determine how the interaction and modification of individual proteins impact the development, structure, and strength of the overall bone.

In this study, they paired laser-capture microscopy with several other techniques to create an entirely new method for analyzing bone matrix. The analysis yields data about the concentration of different proteins in the bone matrix, which in turn leads to key information about the bone—such as when it was formed, how it has been modified, and whether it is more or less prone to fracture.

Vashishth said this is an important step toward augmenting current osteoporosis diagnosis techniques, which measure bone loss and the quantity of bone present, with new, minimally invasive, proteomics-driven techniques for assessing the quality of the bone. The research is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.


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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 13, September 9, 2011
©2011 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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