A group of geochemists, biologists and clinicians from Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic have worked with NASA to develop a new rapid test of bone health.
Using mass spectrometry they worked out the relative ratios of the calcium isotopes 42Ca and 44Ca in bone and found that lighter calcium isotopes like 42Ca are absorbed from the blood into the bone during bone formation.
Conversely, these light isotopes tend to be released into the bloodstream when bones break down. By measuring the ratios of the two isotopes in blood or urine scientists can calculate the rate of change of bone mass.
Lead researcher Ariel Anbar from Arizona State University said the big advantage of the measurements is that they show what is happening in the bone, whereas traditional bone health measurements such as DXA scans show what has happened.
“This means that we can have a real near-time view of what is happening in the bone, rather than comparing before and after, when damage may have already been done,” she said.
“Our goal is that these measurements will allow us to see bone breakdown in osteoporosis, but also can show us the progress of certain bone cancers, such as multiple myeloma”.