Scientists Monitor Bone Health Using Wireless Electronic Sensor

bone health sensor
Osseosurface device attached to a synthetic bone. -Courtesy of Gutruf Lab, University of Arizona

Scientists design wireless sensor that attaches directly to the surface of the bone and can help monitor bone health.

The musculoskeletal system goes through various changes over the course of a lifetime. Often diseases and injuries can compromise the functioning of this system. And thus, severely limit a person’s mobility. Therefore, orthopedics doctors are always on the search for ways to heal patients faster but also help them return to their original level of functioning. This requires careful monitoring of bone health which can be a complex task due to the unavailability of suitable tools. However, researchers at the Arizona University have now found a way to monitor bone health using a sensor that attaches directly to the bone’s surface.

This technology platform allows us to create investigative tools for scientists to discover how the musculoskeletal system works and to use the information gathered to benefit recovery and therapy.

– Professor Philipp Gutruf, study author

According to data, people spend more days in the hospital recovering from fragility fractures than heart attacks or cancers. Diseases such as osteoporosis and osteopenia can increase the risk of fractures and delay bone healing in these patients. Due to the variability in bone physiology, doctors need to design personalized orthopedic treatments for their patients. The wireless sensors are therefore aimed at providing physicians with measurements that can help them provide a better picture of the patient’s physiological responses.

A Computer on the Bone

Study author, Philipp Gutruf described the device as a ‘computer on the bone’. The paper-thin sensor can attach directly on the surface of the bone without irritating the surrounding muscles or tissue. Professor John Szivek achieved the sensor’s bone attachment using calcium adhesives that cause a permanent fusion with the bone. Moreover, the calcium adhesive not only allows the bone to grow but also the sensor itself. Thus, helping provide long term measurements on a number of physiological parameters such as bone strain and temperature.

They also do not need a battery. This is possible using a power casting and communication method called near-field communication, or NFC, which is also used in smartphones for contactless pay.


According to the research, the implantable device offers countless opportunities to study disease pathogenesis and develop therapeutics against these diseases.

The complete findings of the study are available in the journal Nature Communications.


Cai, L., Burton, A., Gonzales, D.A. et al. Osseosurface electronics—thin, wireless, battery-free and multimodal musculoskeletal biointerfaces. Nat Commun 12, 6707 (2021).


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