Press release issued on October 2, 2017

PoCOsteo: a new European effort targeting early-stage osteoporosis detection

Ghent University and its project partners today announced the launch of the PoCOsteo project. Together they will develop and validate a point-of-care in-office device for identifying individuals at high risk of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fracture. The project is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Industrial leadership in nanotechnologies, advanced materials, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing and processing (H2020-NMBP). The overall goal of the project is the development, clinical validation and preparation for commercialisation of a point-of-care tool for bone disease (a.o. osteoporosis) prevention, detection and treatment.

Indeed, as a consequence of the ageing of the society, osteoporosis (literally “porous bone”) and its complications is becoming more and more prevalent, making the bone disease a health priority in many parts of the world. Usually osteoporosis manifests itself in a drastic manner, i.e. through fracture of the osteoporotic bone in the affected individual. This causes a serious burden for the patient and a high medical care cost for the society. Currently osteoporosis is commonly known as a “silent killer” disease. Up to 20% of patients die in the first year following a hip fracture, mostly due to pre-existing medical conditions. Less than half of those who survive the hip fracture regain their previous level of function [1]. Early detection of individuals at risk of osteoporosis and starting a suitable treatment before fractures and complications arise would drastically improve the current situation. Until now little or no measures for prevention or early detection of osteoporosis are taken, because no simple, yet sufficiently accurate or sensitive tools for early detection are available.

The PoCOsteo system will employ electrochemical detection and brings together proteomics, genomics and microfluidics technologies. The in-office test will provide the results in real-time during consultation and can be performed by unskilled technicians even at rural areas where access to current state-of-the-art equipment is limited. The design will limit the amount of both expensive reagents and blood samples needed for the tests and so it not only reduces the cost of each test, which is of great importance, especially nowadays when full reimbursement is not practiced in many countries, but also reduces the patient’s pain and discomfort.

The project will be supported and advised by the IOF, the International Osteoporosis Foundation, which is the main global alliance of patient societies, research organizations, healthcare professionals and international companies working to promote bone, muscle and joint health.

Over the next four years, PoCOsteo will be coordinated by Ghent University. Industrial, academic and clinical partners will bring their expertise to the project: Universitat Rovira I Virgili and microLIQUID (Spain), Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung (Germany), Labman Automation (United Kingdom), Medizinische Universität Graz (Austria),  Endocrinology and Metabolism Research Institute (Iran) and Fundico (Belgium).

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