Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Tool for CSI? Geographic Software Maps Distinctive Features inside Bones

A common type of geographic mapping software offers a new way to study human remains.

In a recent issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers describe how they used commercially available mapping software to identify features inside a human foot bone – a new way to study human skeletal variation.

David Rose, a Captain in the Ohio State University Police Division and doctoral student in anthropology, began the project to determine whether the patterns of change inside the bones of human remains could reveal how the bones were used during life.

“Our bones adapt to the load that’s placed on them. Patterns of tension and compression show up in our internal bone structure, and this software lets us look at those patterns in a new way,” Rose said.

Julie Field, study co-author and assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State, explained that archaeologists frequently use geographic information system (GIS) software to map the location of objects uncovered at an excavation site.

“We try to identify important clusters of objects such as household tools or agricultural tools that would indicate patterns of human activity,” Field explained. “Based on certain scientific criteria that you give it, the software gives you a statistical measure of whether the objects you’re looking at actually constitute a cluster.”

In this case, the researchers used a program called ArcGIS. But similar types of mapping software can analyze any kind of spatial data, such as crime statistics or flood models, Rose added. He usesthe same program to map line-of-site views to develop security plans for events on campus.

This is the first time anyone has used GIS software to map bone microstructure.

Co-author Sam Stout, professor of anthropology at Ohio State and Rose’s advisor, explained why the study of internal bone structure is important.

This is the first time anyone has used GIS software to map bone microstructure.

“Dave's work allows us to visualize, analyze, and compare the distribution of microscopic features that reflect the development and maintenance of bones, which we can relate to skeletal health and disease – for example, bone fragility in osteoporosis,” Stout said.

Advances that relate to the study of foot bones in particular would be useful in forensics, Rose explained, because of one grisly fact: when unidentified human remains are discovered today, the foot bones are sometimes intact, having been protected by the deceased person’s shoes. Any information about the person, such as age, sex, or body size could ultimately aid law enforcement in identifying a body.

For this study, the researchers studied the cross-section of a metatarsal – a long bone in the foot – from a deceased woman who generously gave her body to the Division of Anatomy’s Body Donation Program. Using this bone cross-section, they demonstrated how the software could be used to show the loads experienced in the foot during gait.

Rose recorded an extremely high-resolution image of the bone cross-section under a microscope, and used the software to map the location of key structures called osteons.

Osteons are microscopic structures created throughout life to fix small cracks or to maintain mineral levels in our blood. The size and shape of osteons, along with the direction of the collagen fibers from which they are made inside bone, are influenced by the loads we place on our bones during life.

In this case, the donor’s metatarsal bone showed the predicted pattern of normal bone remodeling, with concentrations of particular types of osteons along the top and bottom of the bone which could have been formed by forces experienced as she walked – just where researchers would expect to see telltale signs of foot flexure and compression.

This study provides a proof of concept, Rose cautioned, and many more bones would have to be studied before GIS software could provide meaningful insight into bone biology.

“Really, we’re just combining very basic principles in GIS and skeletal biology,” he said. “But I believe that there is a tremendous opportunity for advancements at the intersection of both disciplines. The real advantage to this method is that it offers a new scale for the study of human variation offering to shed light on how we adapt to our surroundings.”

Co-author Amanda Agnew, assistant professor of anatomy, agreed and added that the work “combines bone biology, biomechanics, and biomedical informatics to explore new methods to evaluate old questions.”

Timothy Gocha of the Department of Anthropology also contributed to this research.

Contact: David Rose, (614) 292-6367;
Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475;

David Rose | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Lego-like wall produces acoustic holograms
17.10.2016 | Duke University

nachricht New evidence on terrestrial and oceanic responses to climate change over last millennium
11.10.2016 | University of Granada

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>