Document Detail

The use of fingernails as a means of assessing bone health: a pilot study.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  15916508     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
BACKGROUND: Anecdotally, patients volunteer reports of increasing hardness of their fingernails within months of starting diverse treatments for osteoporosis. The properties of both nail and bone may be linked in a comparable, measurable way. METHODS: We examined the fingernails of two groups of patients, with (n = 9) and without (n = 13) osteoporosis at either the hip or lumbosacral spine. We performed nanoindentation to assess the degree of nail brittleness and Raman spectroscopy to assess the disulfide bond content of nail. RESULTS: The mean moduli of fingernails of patients with low bone mineral density (BMD) are lower than those of patients with normal BMD. The mean difference in mean modulus between the groups was found to be 0.996 (p = 0.15 between groups). The spectroscopy data also showed differences between the two sets of nails. The disulfide bond content of the nails sourced from osteoporotic patients was lower than that from healthy patients (p = 0.06 between groups). CONCLUSIONS: Bone collagen and nail keratin are two distinct structural proteins, and both require protein sulfation and disulfide bond formation, via cysteine, for structural integrity. A disorder of either process may lead to disordered collagen and keratin synthesis. This is reflected in the structural abnormalities seen in clinical syndromes in which there is either protein deficiency, disorders of sulfur metabolism, or cystathione beta-synthase deficiency. The relationship between nail and bone may exist in a measurable way. This pilot study should lead to further work to explore this relationship. Could nail prove to be a valuable adjunct to diagnosis or provide a means of more rapid follow-up after commencement of therapy?
I Pillay; D Lyons; M J German; N S Lawson; H M Pollock; J Saunders; S Chowdhury; P Moran; M R Towler
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Journal of women's health (2002)     Volume:  14     ISSN:  1540-9996     ISO Abbreviation:  J Womens Health (Larchmt)     Publication Date:  2005 May 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2005-05-26     Completed Date:  2005-09-13     Revised Date:  2006-11-15    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101159262     Medline TA:  J Womens Health (Larchmt)     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  339-44     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Medical Gerontology, Clinical Age Assessment Unit, Limerick Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick, Ireland.
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MeSH Terms
Bone Density*
Case-Control Studies
Collagen / analysis
Keratins / analysis
Middle Aged
Nail Diseases / metabolism
Nails / metabolism*
Osteoporosis / metabolism*
Pilot Projects
Spectrum Analysis, Raman
Reg. No./Substance:
68238-35-7/Keratins; 9007-34-5/Collagen

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