Narrator: This is Science Today. Using sophisticated imaging and testing techniques, scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have gained better insight into why older people suffer more from bone fractures – a finding that may lead to new therapeutic measures. Robert Ritchie, a senior scientist at the Lab who led the study, says as people grow older, they lose bone quality.
Ritchie: We took bone from 30-year olds, 50 to 60-year olds and we have some 90 to 100-year old bone. And what we found was there was dramatic reduction in the toughness of bone with age – dramatic. In fact, the resistance to a crack that's growing in bone is almost nothing in 100-year old bone. So, there's a huge reduction in toughness of the bone.
Narrator: As we age, our bones lose density, and that was considered to be the main reason why the elderly were more prone to fracture: due to less bone quantity.
Ritchie: In fact, bone density or bone quantity was perhaps only five, ten percent of the problem. There was something else going on as well. The bone itself is diminishing in quality, making it more prone to fracture.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.