UAMS Study Gives Hope for Earlier Osteoporosis Diagnoses

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) have found a way to predict bone loss that could lead to earlier and more reliable diagnoses of osteoporosis.


The research team, led by Larry J. Suva, Ph.D., detected proteins in the blood serum of 58 postmenopausal women that signaled increased bone loss. The findings are reported in the June issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research and in the July issue of Nature Clinical Practice – Endocrinology and Metabolism.


“The potential is that we can use a drop of a patient’s blood to diagnose their risk of fracture, their bone turnover and their osteoporosis,” said Suva, director of the UAMS Center for Orthopaedic Research and professor in the departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Physiology and Biophysics in the UAMS College of Medicine.


Identifying the biomarkers associated with bone loss may someday be used in addition to bone mineral density tests, which often can’t predict the risk of fractures related to bone loss. Until UAMS’ breakthrough, biochemical markers of bone turnover have not provided the specific information needed to make accurate diagnoses of osteoporosis.


“Our findings may lead to a way to potentially supplement the bone density test,” Suva said. “It’s a pretty big deal for the osteoporosis community.”


About 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis, and another 34 million are estimated to have low bone mass (osteopenia), which puts them at risk for osteoporosis.


Researchers used a process called surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry to search for serum biomarker patterns associated with bone loss. Mass spectrometry is a technique that identifies the chemical composition of a substance.


“We have much more work to do to get this into doctors’ clinics, but it’s exciting that we at UAMS have the technology to interrogate the serum proteome of patients who have diseases other than malignant disease, which is where this technology has been focused in the past,” Suva said.


The research is continuing in collaboration with George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., to sequence the individual proteins from patient samples that signal bone loss.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit