Dr. Timothy G. Bromage, Adjunct Professor of Biomaterials & Biomimetics and of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for a one-year pilot study to analyze bone tissue development in sub-Saharan Africans, who are believed to have significantly more bone mass than people in other regions of the world. Dr. Bromage will use high-resolution microscopy to uncover developmental differences in the thigh bones of sub-Saharan Africans compared to Australians of European descent. The bone samples are being provided by the University of Malawi College of Medicine in Blantyre and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne, Australia.
Working with coinvestigator Dr. Yusuf Juwayeyi, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Long Island University, Dr. Bromage expects to show that rural sub-Saharan Africans, who have higher-than-average physical workloads, have developed a distinctive pattern of collagen fiber structure to enable their thigh bone to better resist compressive and tensile loads. By contrast, the Australians in his study have widely varying bone fiber patterns reflecting the broader range of lifestyles, occupations, and physical activity levels in their urban environment.
The study will also address whether sub-Saharan Africans, who seldom develop osteoporosis, have a denser, more mineral-rich bone structure to protect them against fractures. Dr. Bromage’s analysis could contribute to efforts to prevent osteoporosis, such as the development of mineral supplements that stimulate greater bone density.