The FDA has provided clearance for a medical device called Osteoboost, a vibrating belt that improves bone density in patients with osteopenia. The device, which was developed by California-based startup Bone Health Technologies and in part with NASA, is the first medical device of its kind to get regulatory approval as a treatment option for postmenopausal women.
One in two older women who have experienced menopause gets osteoporosis (the disease that comes after prolonged and untreated osteopenia), which is characterized by porous bones that can easily fracture. The Osteoboost belt is designed to prevent bone density from reaching that stage through early intervention. It works by mechanically stimulating the strength of the bones in the hips and spine of a wearer and prevents the further progression of bone density disintegration. The blueprint for the technology comes from NASA research that was investigating ways to prevent bone density from weakening in astronauts that work in mostly zero gravity environments where deterioration becomes a concern.
The belt should be worn for 30 minutes every day or at least five times a week for it to fully take effect. It delivers a gentle vibration that makes it easy to be worn pretty much anywhere or at any time, such as during dog walks or while washing dishes. During clinical trials, CT scans showed that following the integration of the belt into a patient’s care plan, bone density visually improved over time. In a study backed by the NIH, women aged 50 to 60 lost 3.4 percent of their bone density by the end of 12 months without any intervention, while patients who wore the belt lost only 0.5 percent of their bone strength.
Current standards of care for preventing osteoporosis during the osteopenia stage are mostly lifestyle suggestions that can be hard to adhere to, such as a well-balanced and calcium-rich diet, frequent weight-bearing exercises and reducing the risk of falls. “Although lifestyle interventions such as exercise and diet are beneficial to bone, the effect is small. The Osteoboost shows promise in slowing the loss of bone density and strength and may fill the treatment gap,” Laura Bilek, a researcher who has studied the belt’s effectiveness said.
Osteoboost is still not yet available for sale, but you can sign up to get notified when the device is released. A company representative said they will begin shipping later this year and will accept pre-orders in the next few months. While the price is also still not disclosed, the representative told Engadget that the belt will be “affordable and accessible to the millions of patients who need it.” To get the device, you will need a prescription from your doctor — so pricing may vary depending on insurers and co-pays. Bone Health Technology said it is currently in talks with insurers regarding coverage for the medical device. While the price projection could have drastically changed, three years ago the CEO Laura Yecies told NS Medical Devices she believed the device could debut for about $800.