Thursday, February 19, 2009

SCAN: New space technology may help the elderly with bone disorders

Space biomedical researchers are developing new technology called SCAN (Scan Cofocal Acoustic Navigation) to diagnose and assist in healing fractures. It's a small mobile device which uses "non-invasive and non-destructive ultrasound to image bones". Although the device was designed to address loss of bone structure and quality in astronauts, there are certainly applications for the elderly.

How is this different from current diagnostic ultrasound scans?
* its ability to assess a high number of parameters
* its ability to image hard tissue like bone

The researchers note that risk of bone fracture is probably more related to quality of the bone, rather than bone density alone (the usual test given the elderly).

At the current time, the device can image the heel or wrist. Scanning of the knee and hip is currently under development. The therapeutic part of the device is what I find most fascinating. It will help accelerate fracture healing by stimulating bone regeneration.
I can't help thinking about Star Trek as I write that last sentence :-)