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Diabetes study seeks to identify biomarkers for fracture risk

Oct. 20, 2016, 8:56 AM

Medical studies have established that people with type 2 diabetes are more susceptible to fractures, but the biological process that weakens their bones is not understood.

Bone mineral density isn’t a factor because people with diabetes have normal to high levels when compared to people without diabetes of similar age. Water, which comprises 20 percent of bone volume, could be a factor.

Jeffry Nyman, Ph.D., assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation and a member of the Vanderbilt Center for Bone Biology, and colleagues in Biomedical Engineering and Medicine have been investigating the role of matrix-bound water in diabetic bone disease, and over the past year have had their research published in two journals.

Now, Nyman has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue that work. His goal is to identify biomarkers that doctors can gauge to determine which patients with diabetes are most at risk. These biomarkers could potentially be therapeutic targets for new treatments to prevent fractures.

The focus of his research is the extracellular matrix of the bone, specifically modifications to the collagen as well as the non-collagenous proteins. He will seek to identify key modifications at the molecular level to the collagen, which affect the bound water required for plasticity.

The research involves the use of nuclear magnetic resonance and Raman spectroscopy to study both human bones and bones in mouse models.

“We hope to find relevant biomarkers directly from bones that will tell doctors, ‘Yes, this particular individual is having issues with his or her bone matrix and maybe needs to be treated,’” Nyman said. “We may also be able to find some therapeutic agents around these biomarkers.”

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