Bone Marrow Fat: A Role in Osteoporosis?

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh are exploring a potential connection between osteoporosis and bone marrow fat (BMF), which has been found in higher than normal levels in people who have the bone disorder. Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), administered through the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), are being used to better understand BMF's possible role as a cause or consequence of the condition, which results in weakened bones and related fractures in an estimated 44 million Americans.

Photo ID: Dr. Jane A. Cauley

Jane A. Cauley, Dr.P.H., who has long studied osteoporosis as a principal investigator for the Pittsburgh site of the NIAMS/National Institute of Aging (NIA)-funded Study of Osteoporotic Fractures(SOF) and Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS), is focusing her attention on males with the disease in this study. Compared with women, much less is known about the cause and prevention of the disorder and its attendant fractures in older men. Dr. Cauley is using new noninvasive imaging techniques to assess bone marrow fat in 150 MrOS participants, and search for connections to bone mineral density (a standard measure of bone health), bone geometry, and turnover. In addition, a database of lifestyle, medical and other characteristics will be used to evaluate links between BMF and skeletal health.

ARRA funding, says Dr. Cauley, has been essential in allowing her and her colleagues to pursue the project, use the state-of-the-art magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging technique, bring on needed staff, and further utilize resources available from the MrOS study.

"This study may provide the research community with a novel understanding for the basic of osteoporosis, especially in older men," she remarks. "It also opens a new opportunity for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures among at-risk populations."

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The activity above is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about the National Institutes of Health's ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit

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