At Stony Brook University in New York research is being led by Yi-Xian Qin, PhD and Professor into a potentially revolutionary new treatment for osteoporosis, fractures and other related issues that involve bone loss. Currently the only treatments for these issues either involve waiting for the patient’s body to heal naturally, or using pharmacological drug treatments to help ease the problem. This could all change now that they have evidence suggesting that medium-density focused ultrasound can have beneficial effects in this area, potentially being one of the biggest developments in the area since 3D ultrasound.
The technique revolves around focusing these ultrasonic waves on osteoblasts, these are more commonly known as bone-forming cells. When these osteoblasts are stimulated with ultrasound they consistently experience increase mobility and triggers the release of calcium which in turn promotes growth.
Stony Brook University states that musculoskeletal tissues, like bone and muscle, respond to significant stimuli such as exercise. This is to maintain the tissues natural state of dynamic equilibrium in response to mechanical loading. Realizing this opportunity the researchers decided to test how osteoblasts would respond to other mechanical signals such as ultrasound. The research team developed a new innovative method to apply the ultrasound which they call acoustic radiation force (ARF); they expose the osteoblasts to one minute of this radiation and then try to observe any reaction. What they repeatedly found was that through the use of the ARF focused ultrasound beam they had induced cellular cytoskeletal rearrangement, the motility and mobility of the cells, and accelerated intracellular calcium transportations and concentrations.
This is an exciting development in the field due to the comparative nature of the treatment; the opportunity to develop a none invasive and drug free ultrasonic procedure which has the potential to cause little to no side effects has obvious advantages, as this is something that even the mildest drug can sometimes have problems with.
Dr. Qin is also involved with other research projects, previous findings of his has led to the creation of an ultrasound machine designed to specifically scan bones and is far more advanced than the current ultrasound technology in the area as it assesses bone parameters beyond simple mineral density. This machine was initially invented to act as a diagnostic tool to help predict early bone loss, with the discovery of the effects of ARF, they are now looking to combine the two technologies in order to build a device that can first predict and identify bone loss or fractures, and then provide ARF treatment to the affected area in order to promote growth and healing.
The more that scientists study ultrasound the more benefits and uses for it are being discovered. It still amazes me personally that simple sound waves can have such an effect on us as people, especially when it is normally thought of as a method of seeing, not healing. It is studies such as this that go to show what a bright future ultrasound has in our world and the exciting times that people who enter the industry will experience.
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Source: Stony Brook University