Method for Early-Stage Osteoporosis Detection and Assessment of Bone Health

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) have developed a new method that can provide early detection of osteoporosis and other bone diseases.  Osteoporosis has been called the ‘silent killer’ since it often remains undetected until a bone fracture is obtained.  The determination of patient-specific intrinsic properties provides superior methods for detecting and monitoring bone disease.


The current standard test for detecting and assessing osteoporosis is a DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan, which provides a measure of the total amount of radiation absorbed within the patient. The measured absorptivity is an extrinsic property that depends on many uncontrolled factors. A related intrinsic measurement, the bone volume fraction (BVF) distribution, would be preferred, since it provides a measure of the actual amount of bone tissue (or matrix) at various locations throughout the observed region.

A superior intrinsic property for detecting bone structural changes due to early onset of osteoporosis and other diseases is the hydraulic permeability. Unlike BVF, it is sensitive to the architecture, or actual arrangement of the bone tissue. Relatively thin trabecular elements with large surface-to-volume ratios, such as thin tissue or rod connectors, are likely lost early in the onset of disease. While the amount of bone tissue will initially be small, with a corresponding small, or no, effect on bone mass, the corresponding change in the permeability can be quite large. The use of measures of permeability and bone-volume fraction together will provide superior assessments of bone health.


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides unique opportunities to determine spatial distributions of the amount of fluid, and molecular motions, within permeable media, such as cancellous bone. CSU researchers have developed the means to determine spatial distributions of permeability and bone-volume fraction within in-vitro flow experiments on samples of cancellous bone. While the methods to determine bone-volume fraction can be performed in-vivo, the means are not currently available to conduct the flowing experiments to directly measure permeability. However, in-vitro experiments can be used to develop empirical and theoretical methods to determine estimates of permeability from in-vivo MRI methods, and to in turn assess bone health. Furthermore, the determination of intrinsic properties enable the use of a regular (such as annual) assessment of disease progression.


  • Earlier detection of osteoporosis than current methods
  • Assessment of bone degradation or damage


  • Osteoporosis detection and assessment
  • Monitor disease progression and bone health
Last Updated: August 2023

Available for Licensing
TRL: 2

IP Status

Provisional Patent Filed


A. Ted Watson, PhD

Reference Number
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Aly Hoeher