Rensselaer Research Review Winter 2010-11
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New Process Yields Wealth of Information From Nanoscale Bone Samples
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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, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer, 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, which is published by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, also features the paper in its print edition.

The research, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was conducted in the laboratories of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer.

New Method for Examing Bone Matrix Pairs Laser-Capture Microscopy With Other Techniques

Bones are primarily composed of mineral, with the remaining amount comprised of 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 if it is more or less prone to fracture.

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“New Process Yields Wealth of Information
From Nanoscale Bone Samples”
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