New technology may 'revolutionise' diagnosis of bone diseases

A new technology is set to be tested at the RNOH, which could revolutionise the diagnosis of conditions such as brittle bone disease and osteoarthritis.

The Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS) instrument will undergo testing for the first time with NHS patients at the RNOH's Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science.

The machine is the first to be available commercially. It will take measurements from volunteering patients coming in for routine appointments for specific diagnosed bone disorders. 

At the moment brittle bone disease, a genetic bone condition, is often diagnosed after multiple painful fractures have already occurred to newborn babies.

If testing is successful, this machine could be developed as a diagnostic instrument and lead to preventive measures being taken at an earlier stage of disease development and the improved monitoring of the effects of treatments.

Professor Allen Goodship, Director of the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, said this is an "important and exciting" step in research that could lead to earlier, simpler and more cost effective diagnosis.

“Our aim is to enable treatment to be more effective in improving quality of life," he said.

Consultant Dr Richard Keen said the equipment uses the non-invasive SORS technique to safely determine the chemistry of bone tissue several millimetres beneath the skin.

"This involves pressing a probe with a safe, low power laser beam gently against the skin in areas where bone is mainly covered by skin,” he said.

“Many bone diseases arise because of subtle changes in the bone protein chemistry but these are invisible to conventional techniques like X-rays.

The wonderful thing about the SORS technique is its potential ability to detect these subtle molecular changes.”

"If developed successfully, this type of technology may reduce the need for additional, often invasive tests such as biopsies, which could revolutionise the way we currently do our work."

The new study will establish the feasibility of development of this type of disease diagnosis on patients and, if successful, will pave the way for future patient clinical trials to validate potential wider applications such as screening for osteoporosis and connective tissue disorders.


1. RNOH is the largest specialist orthopaedic hospital in the UK and is regarded as a leader in the field of orthopaedics.The Trust provides a comprehensive and unique range of neuro-musculoskeletal healthcare, ranging from acute spinal injuries to orthopaedic medicine and specialist rehabilitation for chronic back pain sufferers.

2. The SORS technique was patented at the Science and Technology Facility Council's Central Laser Facility (CLF).

 The instrument was developed for bone scanning through collaboration with the CLF's spin out company, Cobalt Light Systems Ltd, and the Institute of Orthopedics and Musculoskeletal Science, one of the UK's specialist centres for bone disorders. 

Quick Links