Sheffield University pioneers osteoporosis research

A leading osteoporosis expert from Sheffield has been awarded the prestigious Society for Endocrinology Medal and the Kohn Foundation Award for his 25-year commitment to revolutionising the treatment and diagnosis of osteoporosis.

Professor Richard Eastell, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals' Research and Development Director and Director of Research for Medicine at the University of Sheffield, was singled out for his "unflagging and infectious commitment to the cause", according to the Arthritis Research Campaign in their newsletter, Arthritis Today.

The Teaching Hospitals Trust has also been named as "leading the way in bone disease" by Arthritis Today for carrying out pioneering research into metabolic bone disorders.

Professor Eastell joined the Northern General Hospital in 1989 when relatively little was known about the condition osteoporosis. "Fifteen years ago, osteoporosis was mainly a research subject as the causes of the condition were somewhat unknown," he said. "There were no accurate or effective diagnostic tools in use and treatment for patients was very limited.

"I originally trained as an Endocrinologist and found I had a special interest in the way hormones affect the different parts of the body, particularly the bones. I decided initially to try and develop a better osteoporosis service for Sheffield patients, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of the condition across other hospitals in the country."

Professor Eastell has since become one of the country's leading experts in osteoporosis and his work in researching the causes and treatments of the condition has become internationally recognised.

Osteoporosis literally means 'porous bones' and is a condition where the bones become brittle and more likely to break. It affects one in three women and one in 12 men and costs the NHS over £1.7 billion each year - that's £5 million each day.

Working closely with hospital staff and researchers from the University, Professor Eastell has led the development of some of the most effective new drugs for the treatment of osteoporosis. He has also been a key figure in studies to provide vital medical evidence that proves the importance of including milk in children's diets to ensure proper bone development.

Professor Eastell says, "These awards represent the hard work of a strong team, both from the University and the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, where the clinical service is led by Dr Nicola Peel. Without the dedication and support of my colleagues, I could never have played my part in researching and promoting osteoporosis."

The Trust's Clinical Lead for Metabolic Bone, Dr Nicola Peel, says, "I am delighted that Richard's hard work and dedication have been recognised by these two important awards. Much of his research over the years has been of direct relevance to the clinical management of patients with osteoporosis.

"As a consequence we have been able to introduce innovative techniques and treatments into our clinical practice at an early stage. This has helped us develop as one of the leading centres in the UK."

Professor Bob Boucher, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield says, "This award is a superb achievement for Professor Eastell and recognition of the close relationship between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. This joint relationship has allowed Sheffield to become one of the leading world centres for researching and treating osteoporosis."

In June 2003, a dedicated £1.3 million Metabolic Bone Centre opened at the Northern General Hospital to cope with increased demand for the service, which has gone from offering one outpatient clinic a month in the 1980s to providing clinics each day. The Trust now offers the biggest bone density screening service in the country, scanning between 500 and 1000 patients each month.

The Metabolic Bone Centre provides state of the art research facilities and as a consequence has helped the University of Sheffield Bone Metabolism Group and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to become the UK's leading centre for metabolic bone diagnosis and research.

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