Dr Richard Abel

What we do

Our research pursues the evidence base for healthcare and environmental policy. Our primary goals are to discover the mechanisms behind the remarkable mechanical properties of bone and better understand how ageing and environmental factors, like environmental pollution, modulate the response to mechanical loading, predisposing bones to osteoporotic fracture from the molecular scale up.

Why our research is important

Our technical innovations in experimental imaging and computer modelling have resulted in new methods for studying tissue and organ mechanics from the molecular scale-up. We apply the methods to study the mechanisms underlying the effects of ageing and the environment on bone health and disease. 

How our research benefits people and patients

We are translating the research by testing the application of bone health measures for clinical decision-making in surgery of the hip and spine. Our work also includes the introduction of novel diagnostic and screening technologies in healthcare to improve the identification and treatment of osteoporosis. We are also studying natural history of bone stress injuries in dancers (ballet and contemporary) to improve the health and well-being of dancers.

Summary of current research

New research in air pollution
We are working to establish a mechanistic link between exposure to air pollution, especially in urban areas, and the increased occurrence of osteoporotic fractures in ageing populations. We have three objectives. Our team is analysing the accumulation of metals in the bones of mice using advanced microscope imaging techniques. We will also study how these metals affect bone strength and resistance to fractures by subjecting bone samples to stress and fracturing them using the UK's particle accelerator, the Diamond Light Source. Additionally, we are developing computer models to simulate the impact of metal accumulation on bone mechanics. These models will help us understand the mechanisms behind bone weakness and fracture risk caused by metal ions. Our research has the potential to significantly contribute to our understanding of the relationship between air pollution and bone health. By providing new knowledge on the toxic effect of metal accumulation on bones, the study's findings can have implications for public health, policymaking, and the development of new tools and approaches to study pollutant toxicity and evaluate bone health. 

Additional information

Past Members

Madelaine Thornily Bone Ultrasound software
Sara Behforootan Bone Ultrasound hardware
Zexin Zheng Hip resurfacing for AVN (clinical)
Tabitha Tay Bone nanostructure and mechanics
Oliver Boughton Optimising surgery through metrics of bone quality (clinical)
Crispin Wiles Characterisation of the hierarchical structure of heterotopic bone
Shaocheng Ma Effect of ageing on bone mechanics
Karyn Chappell Magic angle MRI scanner (clinical) 
Andi Jin  Micromechanical analysis of bone
Imran Shah  Systemic sex hormone alterations for prostate cancer (clinical) 
Yurgit R Varaeva  Bone turnover biomarkers, diet, and exercise in elite ballet dancers 
Niloofar Ajdari  Prosthetic materials in hemiarthroplasty 

Our researchers

Building an experimental imaging set-up at Diamond Light Source with DIC camera system and a loading rig.

A physiological comparison between ballet dancers versus controls: bone turnover, BMI, exercise and oestrogen metabolism.

Smiles after a successful trip to Diamond Light Source

Receiving a public engagement Award from the Bone Research Society for the BoneUP Podcast. Available on Spotify apple and Audible.

Computer model of a collagen molecule with mutated amino acid sequence (James Rowe).

Bone surface strain measured using DIC during a tensile loading test (Richie Stavri).