The Yale Bone Center celebrates 35 years of pioneering research and advancement

As the Yale Bone Centers complete 35 years of research and development, three researchers share their work and collaborations with the center.


staff reporter


Hedy Tung, Staff Photographer

The Yale Bone Center celebrates 35 years of medical research and treatment advancement since its inception in 1987.

The Yale Bone Center was founded at a time when the medical diagnosis and treatment of skeletal diseases such as osteoporosis, hyperparathyroidism and Paget’s bone disease was rapidly improving. Initially, the center offered counseling services on acquired skeletal disorders and genetic disorders of skeletal structure and mineral content. However, it has since grown to improve the accuracy of diagnoses and expand clinical research programs. The center has now integrated facilities such as the Bone Density and Body Composition Service and the Mineral Metabolism Laboratory, both of which offer cutting-edge research and clinical expertise.

“The Yale Bone Center Mineral Metabolism Lab has made it easy to obtain measurements of blood vitamin D levels and provided access to resources that allow us to measure the bone mass of our mice,” wrote Clemens Bergwitz, associate professor for Endocrinology, to the News. “For our clinical trials, it was helpful to have access to the Bone Center’s advanced equipment and guidance for specialized analysis of patient data.”

Bergwitz is a worldwide expert in hereditary hypophosphatemic rickets with hypercalciuria, known as HRHH, a rare bone disease characterized by symptoms such as muscle weakness, short stature, skeletal deformities, and bone pain. Bergwitz’s research leveraged the resources of the Bone Center and since his identification of the genetic defect underlying HHRH, he has developed a research focus on congenital disorders of bone and mineral metabolism.

Bergwitz’s lab uses mouse models of hypophosphatemia to better understand the body’s responses to oral phosphate therapy. The laboratory’s growing research interest is to understand how human and other animal cells perceive inorganic phosphate, a metabolically important molecule, and to identify mammalian systems capable of studying it using genome-wide RNAi screens.

“With the support of the Yale Bone Center and Director Dr. Karl Insogna, I initiated a research study to determine the use of newer methods to determine bone mineral density in individuals with spinal cord injuries,” Anika Aman, assistant professor of endocrinology, wrote to the news. “Although the most common osteoporosis-related fractures in postmenopausal women and older men are those of the spine, hip, and wrist, people with spinal cord injuries have an increased risk of fractures of the distal femur and proximal tibia.”

Aman is focused on studying bone density in populations at risk for osteoporosis. Through the resources provided by the Bone Center, she was able to develop many breakthrough technologies for screening and management. She recently co-authored an article with Insogna exploring the importance of healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

As current measurement technologies are inadequate, Aman stressed the need to accurately and reproducibly measure bone density to see the effects of treatment and predict future fracture risk, as more than 80 percent of patients develop osteoporosis over the long term. With support from the Yale Bone Center, Aman was able to purchase a knee positioner from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, which pioneered the use of bone densitometry of the distal femur and proximal tibia. Working with Bone Center’s bone densitometry technologists, Aman and her team initiated a study to determine the accuracy of a knee bone density protocol using this knee positioner in healthy subjects.

“Because of the intense experience of hospitalization and illness, there is a strong possibility of disproportionate impact on musculoskeletal health in patients who have had COVID-19,” Evelyn Hsieh, assistant professor of rheumatology and epidemiology and chief of rheumatology at VA Connecticut Healthcare, wrote to the News. “My team and I are working hard to understand the impact of isolation and lack of access to physical therapy, rehabilitation and social support on musculoskeletal health outcomes such as fractures, bone metabolism, osteoporosis and sarcopenia.”

Hsieh has conducted extensive research on osteoporosis in patients with underlying medical conditions that may predispose them to low bone mineral density, either due to the disease itself or the medications they are taking.

The Bone Center has provided her with significant support and mentoring in her work investigating the impact of COVID-19 hospitalizations on musculoskeletal health in elderly patients. She is the lead co-investigator of VALIANT, a longitudinal study evaluating COVID-19 in older adults and tracking patients at various time intervals to interview them about their well-being, physical functioning and any physical deficits they may have. She is also working on assessing the bone density, body composition and muscle strength of the patients in this study.

Karl Insogna, Professor of Endocrinology, is the current director of the Yale Bone Center.

MANAS SHARMA


Manas Sharma represents the Yale School of Medicine for the SciTech Desk of the News. Originally from McComb, MS, Manas is a sophomore at Branford, majoring in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.

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