Scientists apply industrial monitoring technique to orthopedic diagnoses

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WASHINGTON - Tel Aviv University researchers are exploring a modification of technique for human analysis-called bio-ferrography-to diagnose diseases in their early stages, determine the efficacy of drugs, and ascertain the condition of orthopedic implants.

Noam Eliaz said bio-ferrography has the potential to help develop better medications and better implants, and to diagnose the development of diseases, including cancer, at a very early stage.

Ferrography is a practice used by the American and Israeli air forces to monitor the condition of machinery; extracts tiny iron particles from lubricants such as oil and grease to analyse wear in machines.

X-rays, the common diagnostic tool for osteoarthritis, are often insufficient to determine the precise level of the disease. However, bio-ferrography can be used for early detection of the disease in a more objective and quantitative way, said Eliaz.

To test the extent of damage to the joints, the researchers use a bio-ferrograph, an apparatus that allows magnetic isolation of target cells or tissues. They capture magnetically labelled bone and cartilage particles from the synovial fluids extracted from patients’ joints, count them, and then analyze their chemical composition, shapes and dimensions.

The number and dimensions of the wear particles can be correlated to the level of disease, while their chemical composition and shape can indicate from which histological layer of cartilage they originated.

“We have been able to detect wear particles even at an early stage of disease, when orthopaedists could not identify any damage to the joint by X-ray imaging,” explained Eliaz.

The system can also be used to rank the effectiveness of medications in an objective and timely manner.

Eliaz said that bio-ferrography has an additional application in the field of orthopedic implants. It can be used to predict the lifespan of artificial joints during the research and development stage, and later to monitor their degradation in the body and help physicians decide whether to replace them if a catastrophic failure looms.

The findings were published in a three-part series in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. (ANI)

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