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Collaborative Success Stories: Bone Crunching


University of Missouri researchers have used advanced imaging techniques to gain insight into aging bone cells.

Although the symptoms of osteoporosis—weak, brittle bones—are well-documented, the cause is not fully understood and has been linked to varying factors including hormone imbalance, calcium or vitamin D deficiency, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and some medications. Now, a discovery by MU researchers provides clues about changes in aging cells.

Bioengineer Elizabeth Loboa and a team of researchers converted stem cells, which had been derived from human fat, into bone cells. Using an advanced imaging technique called ECIS (electrical cell-substrate impedance spectroscopy), they monitored and analyzed the transformation. The scientists then compared fat-derived stem cells that had come from young (aged 24-36 years), middle-aged (aged 48-55 years) and elderly (aged 60-81) participants. They found that younger cells transformed slowly, but in greater numbers, and the resulting bone cells secreted more calcium. Elderly cells transformed more quickly and did not produce as much calcium over time.

The team’s discovery provides insight into the mechanics of osteoporosis—a possible first step toward prevention and new treatments. The findings also suggest ECIS imaging could be useful in screening donor bone tissue for transplants.

Dr. Elizabeth Loboa is dean of the College of Engineering and a professor of bioengineering at the college.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine