Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Baxter Young Investigator Awards

Mustafa Unal’s research under supervision of Prof. Ozan Akkus is focused on the involvement
of water in fracture resistance of bone. Skeletal fragility due to the aging and disease
(i.e., osteoporosis, osteopetrosis and osteopenia) is a major social-health problem affecting the lives of millions of people. Accurate assessment of fracture risk is critical to help timely inception of therapy or help to avoid unnecessary treatments. In his research, Mustafa Unal has developed
a novel Raman spectroscopy (a laser based vibrational spectroscopic technique)-based nondestructive method to assess hydration status in bone.

There are two types of water in our bone tissues: water that is bound to constituent molecules of the bone and water that is unbound which is freely flowing. The bound water determines how pliable the tissue is, akin to the fracture of a green stick vs. a dry twig. Mustafa’s current research is the first time ever a thorough analysis of the water region in bone’s Raman spectrum was conducted. Mustafa’s Raman-based modality is the only method thus far which probed bound-water compartments differentially for collagen and mineral-bound water simultaneously to investigate independent contribution of these water compartments to bone quality. This research filled in a gap in knowledge about bone, and provides new potential tool for the determination of bone quality. The broader impact of his research lies upon diagnosis of people who are under increased fractures risk due to the aging and diseases. Measurement of bone mineral density (BMD) is insufficient for such prediction of the risk and the field is seeking for the kind of novel measures on the quality of bone at the fabric level and Mustafa’s current research is a strong candidate for it.

The Baxter Young Investigator Award is intended to stimulate and reward research applicable to the development of medical innovations that save and sustain patients’ lives. Accepted categories of research include instrumental and analytical sciences, life sciences, medical device engineering, and pharmaceutical sciences and the program is open to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the US.

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