Osteoporosis research & procedures: How body donors for Science Care contribute

Osteoporosis research & procedures: How body donors for Science Care contribute

May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. The Department of Health & Human Services estimates that 10 million people over the age of 50 living in the United States have osteoporosis. Additionally, as many as 43 million more Americans have low bone mass/density, putting them at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis and low bone density are what is known as "silent" disease, in that a patient remains asymptomatic and the disease goes undiagnosed until a bone is broken or collapses.

In some instances, bone density can degrade to such a point where the collapse of spinal vertebrae can cause a patient to lose height, and a simple cough can have the effect of fracturing a bone!

Osteoporosis and Low Bone Density occur in both females and males

Though statistics and research reveal that biological females are more prone to low bone density than males, males are also affected by these diseases. 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data indicates that roughly 18% of all biological females and 4.2% of biological males over the age of 50 living in the United States have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Various factors increase one’s risk of developing low bone density or osteoporosis, including genetics, family history, changes in hormone levels as one ages, diet, and lifestyle.

We can all reduce our risk of developing low bone density and osteoporosis by avoiding:

  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Prolonged periods of physical inactivity

Manifestation & Diagnosis of Low Bone Density and Osteoporosis 

Oftentimes, those afflicted with low bone density or osteoporosis are unaware of their condition until vertebrae in the spine collapses or a bone is broken.

Because females are at higher risk of developing low bone density or osteoporosis, the CDC recommends that females undergo Bone density tests, or DEXA beginning at age 65 (or sooner, depending on certain risk factors). More information from the CDC regarding bone density tests is available here.

Our donor community is amplifying action to reduce the effects of this ‘silent’ disease

Science Care Donors contribute to various treatments intended to prolong the onset of osteoporosis and repair the effects suffered by those afflicted. 

Members of our donor community have aided researchers in efforts to:

  • Identify genetic biomarkers associated with low bone density and osteoporosis to better understand the causative factors associated with onset of the disease
  • Isolate enzymes specifically linked to osteoporosis to develop medications intended to slow the progression of the disease
  • Explore opportunities for restorative therapy/medicine aimed at maintaining and increasing bone mass/density following the onset of osteoporosis

When the fracture of bones or collapse of spinal vertebrae occur, medical and/or surgical intervention is often required to facilitate the proper healing necessary to allow osteoporotic patients to return to normal activities.

Science Care donors play their part in enabling patients to return to an active lifestyle by:

  • Allowing researchers to develop implantable devices intended to foster more complete healing and better patient mobility following surgical intervention.
  • Providing surgeons the knowledge and skills necessary to treat and repair complex fractures and collapse of spinal vertebrae in osteoporotic patients. 
  • Affording physicians and surgeons the opportunity to become familiar with advanced techniques and procedures intended to treat hip fractures in osteoporotic patients through non-surgical immobilization techniques, fracture reduction and fixation, and total joint replacement, where practicable. 

To learn more about low bone density or osteoporosis, and for additional information regarding general bone health, we encourage you to visit the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation’s website at: https://www.bonehealthandosteoporosis.org/  

You can also stay up to date on how body donation to science through Science Care has impacted other areas of medical research and education.

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