Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Surgery & Cancer

Senior Lecturer







Charing Cross HospitalCharing Cross Campus





Dr. Richie Abel joined the Department of Surgery and Cancer in December 2010. Richie is interested in studying bone quality, with particular regard to tissue development and senescence. The general aim is to improve the diagnosis and measurement of treatment outcomes for metabolic bone diseases.


Bisphosphonates are used to treat osteoporosis and are effective at reducing the risk of fracture by suppressing bone resorption and increasing bone strength. However, the use of bisphosphonates for managing osteoporosis remains a clinical challenge, including patient selection and adherence.

Our recent research published in the Nature Journal Scientific Reports reveals that in some patients long-term treatment with the frontline therapy for osteoporosis (bisphosphonate) might actually weaken bones. Read about it on The Guardian and The BBC.

Richie is researching bone quality: the material and structural basis for bone quality. Current research includes developing novel metrics for bone quality by measuring structural, metabolic, material and mechanical properties.

Developing state of the art 3D imaging techniques such as clinical-, micro- and synchrotron-CT to visualise the hierarchical structure of bone at the gross, micron and submicron levels respectively. Applying serum blood analysis to measure bone formation and resorption. As well as mechanically testing bone samples to measure mechanical properties (e.g. strength, stiffness and fracture toughness).

The metrics are used to assess the effects of aging, lifestyle and pharmacologic agents on bone health e.g. bisphosphonates and cancer treatments such as ADT. More recently Richie has been testing the usefulness of nano- and micro-indenters for assessing the quality of a patients bone in vivo.

As yet virtually all of the metrics, except biochemical markers, are collected ex vivo. Richie is working to identify and test devices that could be used in vivo to diagnose disease, monitor progression and evaluate treatment outcomes. The metrics could also be used to asses the efficacy of novel treatment for bone disease. 


Richie is course Leader for Year 1-2 MBBS Research Design and Statistics. Course Leader Year 1 MBBS Problem Based Learning. Module Director for BSc in Medicine Year 4 Surgical Technology and Innovation. Pastoral roles include postgraduate education committee (PGEC) representative and campus tutor for postgraduate research students at Charing Cross.

The MSk lab is always accepting volunteers and new members for our Bone Patient Involvement Group to be informed of upcoming research, events and trials.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Abel RL, Prime M, Jin A, et al., 2013, 3D Imaging Bone Quality: Bench to Bedside, Hard Tissue, Vol:2, ISSN:2050-2303

Abel RL, Shah SIA, Langley RE, et al., 2013, Fracture after androgen deprivation therapy among men with a high baseline risk of skeletal complications, Bjui, Vol:112, Pages:E431-E433

Abel RL, Laurini C, Richter M, 2012, A biologist's guide to ‘virtual’ micro-CT preparation, Palaeontologia Electronica, Vol:15, Pages:1-16

Reissis D, Abel RL, 2012, Development of fetal trabecular micro-architecture in the humerus and femur, Journal of Anatomy, Vol:220, Pages:496-503

Abel R, Macho GA, 2011, Ontogenetic changes in the internal and external morphology of the ilium in modern humans., Journal of Anatomy, Vol:218, ISSN:1469-7580, Pages:324-335

Macho GA, Spears IR, Leakey MG, et al., 2011, An Exploratory Study on the Combined Effects of External and Internal Morphology on Load Dissipation in Primate Capitates: Its Potential for an Understanding of the Positional and Locomotor Repertoire of Early Hominins, Folia Primatologica, Vol:81, ISSN:0015-5713, Pages:292-304

Chahal HS, Karen S, Martina U, et al., 2011, AIP Mutation in Pituitary Adenomas in the 18th Century and Today, The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol:364, Pages:33-40

Parfitt SA, Ashton NM, Lewis SG, et al., 2010, Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe, Nature, Vol:466, Pages:229-233

McColl DJ, Abel RL, Spears IR, et al., 2006, Automated method to measure trabecular thickness from microcomputed tomographic scans and its application, The Anatomical Record Part A: Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology, Vol:288A, ISSN:1552-4892, Pages:982-988

Macho GA, Abel RL, Schutkowski H, 2005, Age changes in bone microstructure: do they occur uniformly?, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Vol:15, ISSN:1099-1212, Pages:421-430

More Publications