Company developing non-invasive device hopes to revolutionize diagnosis of bone diseases
Osteoporosis currently affects more than 44 million people in the U.S. alone as an ongoing serious public health issue. For many people, osteoporosis goes undiagnosed until they’ve suffered a fracture from a simple slip and fall. Instead of waiting for a potentially life-threatening injury to lead to diagnosis, Athens-based AEIOU Scientific is hard at work developing a non-invasive medical device that uses vibration to assess the strength of bones.
“Osteoporosis and other bone diseases have a tremendous impact worldwide — in fact healthcare costs for osteoporosis are approaching $60 billion a year in the US and Europe,” said Jeff Spitzner, president and CEO. “For the growing population over the age of 50, half of all women and a quarter of all men will suffer a low trauma fracture, requiring hospitalization and rehabilitation. Even something like a hip fracture can be a near-terminal event. These high healthcare costs are driven by diagnostic techniques that don’t predict fragility fractures well. As a result, doctors are not treating many patients who need treatment while treating many who don’t.”
Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, occurs when bones lose their mass and density, which has been thought to make them weaker and more likely to break. Traditionally, doctors have diagnosed osteoporosis by using X-rays to compare a patient’s bone mineral density (BMD) to the bones of young women. However, research has found that most patients diagnosed with osteoporosis by BMD did not fracture, while most patients who did facture did not have a low BMD score. For several years doctors have also been using a questionnaire to estimate a patient’s fracture risk. Unfortunately, new research has found that this survey also didn’t accurately predict which patients actually experienced fragility fractures. Thus, AEIOU is pursuing a different approach by using vibration to measure the actual mechanical properties of bone.
“With the non-invasive medical device we’re developing, the patient lies down on a bed and a small probe is placed on their forearm,” said Spitzner. “The probe then gently vibrates, and we use mechanical vibration analysis technology to measure the absolute strength of the underlying bone. Recent Ohio University research has shown the technique to be highly accurate.”
With the support and mentorship of the Ohio Innovation Center and the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund (TVSF), both affiliated with Ohio Third Frontier, Spitzner and his team are working to complete clinical studies and submit their device to the FDA.
“Through the Ohio Innovation Center at Ohio University, I was meeting smart business and technology experts who helped us navigate the startup experience,” said Spitzner. “Licensing the tech allowed AEIOU to apply for the SBIR and TVSF grants. That funding is incredibly valuable for startup companies like us to develop our technology so it’s attractive to investors. It enabled us to bring our first product to market as a scientific instrument and to begin developing a medical device.”