The human skeleton performs numerous functions critical to overall health. A decline in bone health, which can occur in response to disease, medical treatment, or simple aging, can lead to serious health issues, including increased risk of fracture. The most serious, hip fractures, may cause prolonged or permanent disability and almost always require hospitalization and major surgery. Therefore, prevention of fractures represents a significant health intervention that may improve longevity and quality of life in the aging veteran population.
To address this problem, Dr. George Beck at the Atlanta VA has developed new approaches for improving bone health. Dr. Beck has focused on a novel approach that uses tiny particles called nanoparticles. His work demonstrates that silica-based nanoparticles can exert beneficial effects on bone cells stimulating bone formation. These silica-based nanoparticles appear to be good candidates for use in biomedical applications because they can be made to deliver drugs effectively and directly to bone. The development and refinement of agents that promote the rebuilding of lost bone mass provides a promising opportunity for the treatment of bone disease. Dr. Beck’s studies in animals show that silica-based nanoparticles are capable of building bone and blunting bone loss associated with aging. Ongoing studies are further investigating the physical properties of nanoparticles such as size, charge, and composition that contribute to their biological activity. These studies highlight how the design of bioactive nanoparticles can be manipulated to target specific cell types and cellular processes. The results of these studies can also provide additional information enabling the design of nanoparticles that could specifically target different aspects of bone metabolism.