New device for the diagnosis of bone fragility

New device for the diagnosis of bone fragility
New device for the diagnosis of bone fragility

Periostin in bone. Credit: HUG

A new device for diagnosing brittle bones invented by the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) and the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has been approved for marketing in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Licensed by the Northern Irish company ProAxsis, it has been launched this summer. The device is based on a new approach to assess bone quality through blood samples. This test is much more specific than current techniques and will significantly improve diagnosis and advance the development of new treatments for osteoporosis.

Bone fragility is a major public health problem. The main cause is osteoporosis, which affects 30% of the Swiss population. Type 2 diabetes, which affects 10% of the population, is a risk factor since it almost doubles the probability of fracture.

As the population ages, osteoporosis and fragility fractures are expected to increase by 23% in EU countries, from 2.7 million in 2017 to 3.3 million in 2030. In Switzerland, the current annual number of 82,000 fragility fractures to increase to almost 105,000 in 25 years.

Bone fragility must be diagnosed before a fracture occurs, since depending on the person’s age and the affected bone, a fracture can cause severe chronic pain and even increase the risk of mortality.

The basis of this invention lies in the properties of the periosteum, a membrane that covers the bones and plays a fundamental role in their growth and repair. It secretes a key protein that controls the diameter of the bone and therefore its strength: periostin. During the process of bone resorption, the enzyme cathepsin K degrades it. The digested periostin fragment, called k-POSTN, is also found in the blood and thus reflects bone fragility. The interest of this fragment lies in its bone specificity, unlike intact periostin, which has been known to scientists for a long time, but which can also be increased in cardiovascular diseases and cancers. After blood sample taken, the amount of k-POSTN is measured in the laboratory using an ELISA test, a widely used method of measuring molecules in a biological sample.

The new device has the potential to help healthcare professionals identify and monitor people at higher risk of developing osteoporotic fractures, as well as those with other bone-weakening diseases, including type 2 diabetes. therapeutic intervention at an early stage, before a fracture occurs, a fact that should undoubtedly reduce the burden of bone diseases on health systems and significantly improve the quality of life of patients.

This device is intended to complement bone densitometry, which is the imaging technique currently used to assess bone fragility. “This is a process that unfortunately can be biased in the case of type 2 diabetes. The weight gain and fat mass typical of diabetes blur the measurement of bone mineral density, which can appear normal despite the presence of fragile bone tissue. The new device overcomes these limitations,” says Serge Ferrari, Head of the Bone Diseases Service at HUG, Full Professor at the Department of Medicine at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and co-inventor.

Measurement of k-POSTN improves the prediction of bone fragility by increasing the accuracy and specificity of techniques currently used to identify individuals at risk of bone fracture. “Our diagnosis will allow researchers and pharmaceutical companies involved in the development of new treatments for osteoporosis to obtain precise, specific and quantitative measurements of the effect of their pilot products”, says Serge Ferrari.

A unique development process

This discovery is the result of the work of Professor Serge Ferrari and Nicolas Bonnet, a private doctor at the Department of Medicine of the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine.

They first discovered this new process based on direct measurement of a product of nature’s biochemical process. bone degradation. They then began development of the ELISA test in 2014. HUG and UNIGE filed an initial patent in 2016, after which the potential and quality of the test interested Northern Ireland-based company ProAxsis Ltd to obtain a license in 2021. The test received the CE mark in June 2022 for commercialization in Europe.

“It is not often that a product developed in a university hospital is commercialized. And less in such a short time. We owe it to the excellent collaboration with our partners”, concludes Serge Ferrari.

Provided by Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève

Citation: New Device to Diagnose Bone Fragility (Sep 20, 2022) Retrieved Nov 7, 2022 from

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