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Brittle bone scan developed by Warwick’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor helps own secretary

Professor Stuart Palmer University of Warwick Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Palmer was amazed this week when his own PA Gill Gough asked for time off to take up the opportunity of a bone density scan at the University’s Sport Centre being offered to women at risk of brittle bones - osteoporosis. What amazed him wasn’t Gill’s perfectly reasonable request for the time off, it was the fact that he originally led the team that invented the machine that had now returned almost to his doorstep.

The machine originally devised by Professor Palmer’s team is called a heel ultrasound scanner. It enables health professionals to conduct a safe, painless, and rapid test for osteoporosis. The person being tested places their foot in a machine that grips the heel, and ultrasound waves pass through it. Each heel stays in the machine for about two minutes.

Osteoporosis literally means ‘Porous Bones’. It occurs when the rate of bone renewal does not match the rate of breakdown, eventually resulting in weak, brittle bones. Sufferers generally do not realise they have the condition until they break a bone, by which time it is too late for them to have the most effective treatment.

In the UK, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 fractures a bone, mainly because of osteoporosis; however, their condition is generally as a result of a lifetime’s failure to take preventative action. In fact, the progression to osteoporosis can begin in the early 20’s – it is known as, "a paediatric disease with geriatric consequences." More women die each year from fractures caused by osteoporosis than die from breast cancer. This is a frightening and unnecessary statistic for a condition that is both preventable and treatable.Professor Palmer said "I am delighted to see the device once more. I am thrilled to see it being used to help women in Coventry and on my own campus – including my own PA."

Interview and Filming opportunities.: Gill Gough will be tested on the device at 12.20 on Friday 9th May at the University Sports Centre. She is happy to be filmed and or photographed but obviously any filming would have to be quick to allow the team to get on with testing other women. Professor Palmer is available for interview on the same day but only from 11am to 11.15am.

The tests will be conducted by Tracey Hunt & Isobel Pugh who can be contacted at or 07951 152172.

For further details please contact:

Peter Dunn, Press & Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick,
Tel: 024 76 523708 or mobile 07767 655860,

PR42 PJD 7th May 2008