Scientists at the ETH Zurich Departments of Mechanical and Process Engineering and Computer Science have teamed with supercomputingexperts at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory to develop an accurate, powerful and fast method to automate the analysis of bone strength. The method combines density measurements with large-scale mechanical analysis of the inner-bone microstructure.
Using large-scale, massively parallel simulations, the researchers were able
to obtain a dynamic "heat map" of strain, which changes with the load applied to the bone. This map shows the clinician exactly where and under what load a bone is likely to fracture. "With that knowledge, a clinician can also detect osteoporotic damage more precisely and, by adjusting a surgical plate appropriately, can best determine the location of the damage," explains Dr. Costas Bekas of IBM's Computational Sciences team in Zurich.
The joint team utilized the massively large-scale capabilities of the Blue Gene/L supercomputer to conduct the first simulations on a 5 by 5-mm specimen of real bone. Within 20 minutes, the supercomputer simulation generated 90 Gigabytes of output data. The scientists hope future simulation technologies will go beyond measuring bone strength to simulate the actual formation of the fractures for individual patients, to more accurately predict areas at risk for fracture.