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NASA Medicine Science

NASA, ASU Team Finds a New Test For Osteoporosis 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-to-the-bone dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC has an article about scientists at NASA who believe that they have found a new test that can detect osteoporosis earlier than existing tests. Their test involved having healthy volunteers confined to bed rest for 30 days; 'the technique was able to detect bone loss after as little as one week of bed rest.' Bone loss is an issue for astronauts as well as people affected by osteoporosis. They expect this test will help detect bone loss as a symptom of osteoporosis, but have not yet done a trial to confirm this. This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money."
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NASA, ASU Team Finds a New Test For Osteoporosis

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  • ball peen hammer?

    • Conveniently, this is also an extremely efficient test for concussion and bone fractures. Never a false positive. Or a negative.

  • by davidbofinger (703269) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:22AM (#40152259) Homepage

    This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money.

    It might prove NASA has some use. But it doesn't sound like going into space was necessary for this research, so that could, in principle, still be a waste.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Exactly. If they'd never built the ISS, the dozens of billions of dollars could have gone into directed medical research and found the same thing here on earth.
      • by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:55AM (#40152391)
        Well they may have found how to make penises harder for even longer, but osteoperosis is a sickness so they may not have discovered this specifically. It also mostly effects old women so not a big priority, it pretty much could only have come from accidental discovery, or from situation where people society actually cares about (like cosmonauts) suffer from it. There are also the hundreds of other scientific and technological advances that have stemmed directly from space program funding, it's not like we are discussing a totally isolated incident here.
        • by khallow (566160)
          If only you were right, that would be such a glorious future. But alas, we do care what happens to us and our loved ones. As a result, osteoperosis is indeed a well-studied ailment.
      • by mug funky (910186)

        i honestly can't tell if you're serious or not.

      • by geekmux (1040042)

        Exactly. If they'd never built the ISS, the dozens of billions of dollars could have gone into directed medical research and found the same thing here on earth.

        With the hundreds of billions of waste into creating entire departments like DHS, along with the longest running war in global history (the one against Drugs, not religion or politics), like I'm going to believe for one second that "dozens of billions of dollars" would have actually been applied towards something efficient and effective.

        Give DHS another few billion, and we would probably have the Anal Probinator 3000 at the airports.

        • Give DHS another few billion, and we would probably have the Anal Probinator 3000 at the airports.

          Few billion? I have one of those in my bedroom. Set me back $69.95 on QVC.

      • Neil deGrass Tyson answers the question of why we should spend on Space.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQhNZENMG1o [youtube.com]

        Tyson putting the budget in perspective:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxC4ua2k5xQ [youtube.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Going into space is why we have Lithium Ion batteries for one thing. There's a ton of inventions that were created for NASA that have subsequently found use in every day life, the batteries are just one example. Water and air purification technology has been a focus as well.

      The fact that this is a common belief amongst so many is why America is going down the crapper. Whatever happened to doing things just because nobody else had done them? Why on earth do we need to always know what the end result will be

    • Whew, wish I could find the link. But a study discussed some years ago on Slashdot found that for every $1 billion spent on defense and space R&D, there was a benefit equivalent to $200 million being spent on civilian-oriented research. Like, we might have wanted a microwave oven anyhow, without building a rocket to need one.

      So yes, space R&D isn't a complete waste of money. It's an 80% waste of money.

  • by Zaelath (2588189) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:25AM (#40152265)

    I'd like to volunteer for a month of bed rest a year.

  • "expect" (Score:1, Troll)

    by flyingfsck (986395)
    So they haven't actually concluded any such thing. Therefore a totally bulldust article. Thanks for wasting our time.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      The osteoporosis part is of course mainly to attract attention.

      The key of the article however is that they found a new way to measure bone loss, and that this technique allows for much earlier detection of bone loss than before. So it's apparently also much more sensitive and/or accurate. And detection of osteoporosis would be an obvious application of this test.

  • by Warma (1220342) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @01:30AM (#40152513)

    The problem with bedrest (among the obvious ones of removing the subject from useful tasks for a month) is that it causes a large amount of muscle loss and the very bone loss it is trying to detect. What's more, the bone loss from immobilization is rapid and it may take years to recover from. Alternatively, you may never recover from it fully.
    I am a researcher working in the field, and there is a moderate amount of data available from immobilization studies like this (both russian and american) Based on what I know, I'd gladly take a DXA scan over bedrest just based on the risks and accounting for effectiveness, all other factors nonwithstanding.

    Even if this method is more effective, ultrasound-based screening methods, which have neither the cost or the radiation dose of an X-ray, are becoming available. As osteoporosis is easy to treat if detected early, in all likelihood this problem will be solved this generation.

    • by bcrowell (177657)

      The problem with bedrest (among the obvious ones of removing the subject from useful tasks for a month) is that it causes a large amount of muscle loss and the very bone loss it is trying to detect. What's more, the bone loss from immobilization is rapid and it may take years to recover from.

      And ironically, this may imply exactly the opposite of the Slashdot summary's pro-space spin. Some background first.

      Once the cold war and the space race were over, NASA and its contractors went through all kinds of cont

    • by Raenex (947668)

      You've been mislead by the summary. As my anonymous sibling said, "Bed rest is how they induced bone loss in order to test the test. The test itself does not require bed rest."

      The test is just analyzing urine. From the article: "With the new technique, bone loss is detected by carefully analyzing the isotopes of the chemical element calcium that are naturally present in urine. Isotopes are atoms of an element that differ in their masses. Patients do not need to ingest any artificial tracers and are not exp

  • It may be an act of God if you get osteoporosis.

    If you don't have the faith, God will punish you. Osteoporosis and snake bites, it's all the same.

    Here is living example [washingtonpost.com]:

    Serpent-handling pastor profiled earlier in Washington Post dies from rattlesnake bite

    Mack Wolford, a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia whose serpent-handling talents were profiled last November in The Washington Post Magazine , hoped the outdoor service he had planned for Sunday at an isolated state park would be a

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:26AM (#40153183) Homepage

    This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money.

    This has always been a totally bogus argument, because you can't do a controlled experiment. Suppose that the US had never engaged in the Cold War propaganda exercise known as the space race. Later, suppose that the US had never gotten into pork-barrel projects such as the space shuttle and the ISS. What would the world have been like? We have no way of figuring out what scientific advances would have been made in this alternate history.

    Maybe more tax money would have been directed toward unmanned space exploration, which, unlike human spaceflight, provides scientific results in reasonable proportion to what it costs.

    Maybe the nonexistence of a government monopoly on human spaceflight would have encouraged the private sector to start up a space tourism industry decades ago, and my wife and I would have celebrated out 20th anniversary last year in orbit.

    Maybe, simply by reducing the size of government, we would have boosted the over-all economy a little bit, and through exponential growth (the "butterfly effect") that small change would have made the economy significantly bigger today, say by 10%. In a 10% bigger economy, a fixed percentage of taxes spent on cancer research means 10% more cancer research, so maybe we'd have a cure for cancer now.

    Maybe one smart person, rather than becoming an engineer on the Apollo program, would instead have gone into fundamental research in physics, and we'd have a theory of quantum gravity today.

    We just have no way of knowing. You could just as easily say that World War II was a good thing, because without it we would never have invented radar.

    • No mod points, so just an "I agree". If the point of spending tens of billions per year is the side-effect technology, then it IS a waste of money. One could have done a trial like this not related to the space program for not a lot of money. The point of space flight is exploration and the eventual colonization of space, not Tang.

      (and on a side note, it's been at least a year since I've had mod points)

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        and on a side note, it's been at least a year since I've had mod points

        Like me, you post too much. Lurk for a week or two and you'll have fifteen every day.

    • This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money.

      This has always been a totally bogus argument, because you can't do a controlled experiment. Suppose that the US had never engaged in the Cold War propaganda exercise known as the space race. Later, suppose that the US had never gotten into pork-barrel projects such as the space shuttle and the ISS. What would the world have been like? We have no way of figuring out what scientific advances would have been made in this alternate history.

      Although your point is true, the argument is that NASA and going to space in general is not a complete waste of money. No one is claiming that investing the money otherwise could not have yielded better results; in which case a controlled experiment would be required.

    • by JoeRobe (207552)

      I agree with your logic, but I think the poster's argument was that NASA is still contributing to society outside of putting people into space. There's a vocal group of people out there that think the only things we got out of NASA were Tang and Velcro (neither of which came from NASA, incidentally), and that its current form is an utter waste of money. The poster is pointing out that NASA still is doing research relevant to society, not that society is necessarily better off than if NASA had never existed.

  • by buddyglass (925859)

    This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money.

    Nobody is arguing it's a "complete waste of money"; they merely suggest it may not represent the best "bang for our buck". Perhaps not even the best bang for our "scientific research buck". Its budget could be used instead to massively increase the number of research grants given to researchers at U.S. universities. It could be used to establish a bunch of "X Prize" type bounties for various

  • Manymen in their 80s are starting to fell the debilitation of bone loss.
  • This is another point against anyone who claims NASA, and going to space in general, is a complete waste of money.

    Completely illogical. That NASA may occasionally produce useful results doesn't justify what it costs to keep NASA running. Someone else may have been able to produce these same results for much lower cost.

    A broken clock is right twice a day. The rest of the day, it sits around wasting space. That it's right twice a day doesn't imply that it's worth keeping.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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