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Long-running fractures study doubles as a bountiful women’s health data source

Dr. Rosaly Correo-de-Araujo
Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director, DGCG,
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)

More than one-third of people aged 65 years and older fall each year. The risk of falling and fall-related problems like fractures and loss of mobility rises with age and is affected by other health conditions and some medications. A rich collection of data and samples from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF), one of the most influential and long-running studies of risk factors for common fractures, is now available from NIA’s AgingResearchBiobank, offering decades of women’s health data that goes far beyond broken bones.

Thirty years of data awaits

Running from 1986 to 2016 and funded by NIA and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the SOF tracked more than 10,000 women, aged 65 years and older, including over 600 African Americans. While initially funded to study risk factors for hip and other fractures, the aim expanded over the years to include many other common diseases and conditions among older women, including breast cancer, osteoarthritis, stroke, cognitive problems, vision problems, sleep issues, and circadian rhythms.

The SOF repository of more than 69,000 samples and related data has produced studies on biological predictors of and risk factors for fractures, successful aging, and mortality. Sex hormones, vitamin D status, bone turnover markers, inflammation, renal function, blood chemistry, complete blood count — as well as several aging and bone health genetic profiles — have also been investigated. Over 50 follow-up study proposals have used SOF biospecimens, and nearly 500 papers have been published to date using SOF data.

SOF has exceptionally long follow-up time (nearly 30 years) of a large cohort of 10,000 older women. It also has a broad array of aging data variables, including repeat physical and cognitive performance tests. SOF is particularly strong in long-term predictions of fracture, dementia, and longevity/survival, since hundreds of participants lived beyond age 100.

Future research opportunities

The SOF collection also offers opportunities to expand aging research on diverse fronts. Future SOF study directions include, but are not limited to:

  • A unique study targeting microRNA profiling for risk of fracture, which could be extended to identify profiles for exceptional survival and other criteria.
  • Associations between soil selenium levels, rates of change in bone marrow density, and risk of hip and other fractures.

Visit the collection online

For additional information on the SOF specimens and related data and information on how to access the collection, please visit the AgingResearchBiobank.

NIA looks forward to helping you connect with this new resource and other Biobank collections as we continue our work to expand and enhance data and specimen resources for the aging research community. We welcome your questions and feedback below!


Submitted by Margaret Toman on August 12, 2020

...for pursuing this important work. If you are elderly in the USA it is easy to feel that you are not relevant, not worthy of time and attention and certainly not worthy of financial investment. Every few years, our government terrorizes us with threats to Social Security and Medicare. So it is reassuring to know that some folks in medicine and science still take us seriously enough to do this kind of extensive research. Please don't stop. I'm 75!

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