Studies have shown that Raman spectroscopic analysis of fingernail clippings can help differentiate between post-menopausal women who have and who have not suffered a fracture. However, all studies to date have been retrospective in nature, comparing the proteins in nails sourced from women, post-fracture. The objective of this study was to investigate the potential of a prospective test for hip fracture based on spectroscopic analysis of nail tissue. Archived toenail samples from post-menopausal women aged 50 to 63 years in the Nurses' Health Study were obtained and analysed by Raman spectroscopy. Nails were matched case-controls sourced from 161 women; 82 who underwent a hip fracture up to 20 years after nail collection and 81 age-matched controls. A number of clinical risk factors (CRFs) from the Fracture Risk Assessment (FRAX) tool had been assessed at toenail collection. Using 80% of the spectra, models were developed for increasing time periods between nail collection and fracture. Scores were calculated from these models for the other 20% of the sample and the ability of the score to predict hip fracture was tested in model with and without the CRFs by comparing the odds ratios (ORs) per 1 SD increase in standardised predictive values. The Raman score successfully distinguished between hip fracture cases and controls. With only the score as a predictor, a statistically significant OR of 2.2 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5-3.1) was found for hip fracture for up to 20 years after collection. The OR increased to 3.8 (2.6-5.4) when the CRFs were added to the model. For fractures limited to 13 years after collection, the OR was 6.3 (3.0-13.1) for the score alone. The test based on Raman spectroscopy has potential for identifying individuals who may suffer hip fractures several years in advance. Higher powered studies are required to evaluate the predictive capability of this test.


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering


National Institutes of Health, Grant CA87969

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Article - Journal

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Publication Date

01 Jan 2018