Fingernail test to help predict the risk of fractures

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a test that uses a fingernail clipping to predict the risk of fractures is on sale via a high street pharmacy.

The Osentia screening test assesses somebody’s risk of suffering fragility fractures - a common sign of osteoporosis.

People clip a fingernail or toenail, fill in a health questionnaire and post them off to a lab. Within seven days, they are sent a personal analysis which puts their risk of fracture at low, medium or high and suggests lifestyle improvements or whether a trip to a doctor is needed.

Some medics welcomed the £39.99 test but the National Osteoporosis Society warned it should not be a substitute for visiting a GP.

Fizz Thompson, clinical and operations director at the charity, said: “The National Osteoporosis Society welcomes innovation in the field of osteoporosis and any product that can help to raise awareness of the impact that fractures can have on people’s lives is a useful addition to current practice.

“However, we believe there is not enough evidence at this time to show that this new technology is as accurate as visiting your GP, having a discussion about risk factors and being referred for a DXA scan if appropriate.

“As innovative as it is, it is too early to tell whether this new product can accurately identify people’s risk of breaking a bone as there are only small published clinical studies with fairly limited samples of people. We await further clinical trials and will watch with interest as more in-depth results are published.”

There is currently no national screening programme for osteoporosis or fracture risk.

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It is often only diagnosed when a person suffers a minor fall or injury which causes a bone to fracture.

Osteoporosis affects more than three million people in the UK. More than 500,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures as a result of osteoporosis every year.

Dr Dawn Harper, a GP and television presenter, said: “Osteoporosis is a condition often associated with older people, however our bone health starts to decline from our mid-30s.

“Therefore, early identification and intervention is critical to minimise risk and help manage osteoporosis later down the line. Knowing your risk from early on will allow you to make necessary diet and lifestyle changes. By combining a nutrient-rich diet, inclusive of calcium and vitamin D, with weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises such as walking, jogging and pilates, you can help slow down bone loss, strengthen bones and reduce the risk of a breakage.

“This is especially relevant for those at increased risk of developing osteoporosis.”

Dr Mark Towler, who developed the test and is professor of biomedical engineering at Ryerson University in Toronto, said: “Osentia is the first screening test which gives people the opportunity to test their risk of suffering a fragility fracture which is often an early indication of osteoporosis.

“By using Raman spectroscopy, a laser-based technology, to analyse an individual’s nail clipping we can assess their risk as there are similarities between the proteins in nail structure and the proteins that constitute much of bone.”

The test is on sale at Superdrug online.