UIC researcher to investigate whether mechanical forces can increase bone strength

Bone strength is important to aging well, but doctors and therapists are far from understanding the best way to maintain healthy bone or what kind of exercise might help, according to University of Illinois at Chicago College of Applied Health Sciences researcher Karen Troy.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Troy a four-year, $1.6 million grant to investigate whether mechanical forces applied to bone can increase bone strength.

Studies in animals show changes in bone structure following application of well-defined forces, says Troy, UIC assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition. The problem is how to apply strain to bone in people in ways that will result in growth and strength.

"The principles from animal [studies] seem to carry over, but we don't know how exactly to implement them," Troy said. "The long-term goal is understanding how we can use physical-activity interventions to improve bone health, prevent fractures, and prevent or treat osteoporosis."

Troy and her colleagues will recruit women who will apply force to the radius, one of the large bones of the forearm, by pressing the palm of their hand onto an apparatus that measures the force and speed of the pressure.

Two studies will test how bone adapts to different forces. In one study, one group will apply light pressure and another group will apply heavier pressure to determine if there is a dose response in bone changes -- that is, if more pressure results in more growth. In a second study, subjects will apply pressure at high or low rates. The women will apply pressure three times a week for 12 months.

Changes in bone will be determined by quantitative computed tomography, a three-dimensional X-ray technique that will reveal very fine changes in mineral density and structure.

Participants will be followed for an additional 12 months to see how they retain bone changes.

"We know that ordinarily people may not exercise consistently," Troy said.

Troy hopes to obtain results that translate into "how many times I would have to do an exercise to get this much bone growth, on average, in a particular person over a particular time period," she said.

"Our long-term goal is to be able to design a personalized physical activity intervention that would specifically target bone health."


University of Illinois at Chicago College of Applied Health Sciences



  1. Evan Prawda Evan Prawda United States says:

    As a student of Kinesiology currently I enjoy reading about new studies in the field that deal with increasingly problematic diseases such as Osteoporosis which has been and continues to be a detrimental disease that havocs over 10 million people in the United States alone and millions more worldwide. It's a disease that for one affects our nation greater than others due to our complacent lifestyles, which has attributed to other national epidemics such as Diabetes and obesity. Over time our life expectancies will begin to fall (not including life support which can keep us "alive" for extended periods) if we maintain these types of sedentary lifestyles.

    This study interested me because of course we know the general effectiveness and necessity to include a thorough exercise regimen in one's daily life if not only just to stay healthy, fight disease and harmful infections/bacteria, as well as to keep muscles and bones from deteriorating from not using them over the years. Osteoporosis is a gateway disease that starts with frailty of bones and has the potential to branch off into countless other problems and effectively put people out of commission and from enjoying their lives in their later years just because they weren't as active as they needed to be.

    If it's possible to expose bones to high impact / intensity stimulation under a simulatory mechanism it'd be a great advantage to show people defined results from varied subjects and age groups to demonstrate the necessity of incorporating exercise and constant bone/muscle use on a regular basis. Just can't rely solely on the simulation, obviously the importance of exercise is the underlying message that I'd hope this study to show.

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