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Honoring Excellence
Ellen Fung, PhD, Receives CHORI Annual Scientific Achievement Award for Best Paper in 2012

March, 2013 – CHORI is pleased to announce that CHORI Associate Research Scientist Ellen Fung, PhD, has received CHORI’s Annual Scientific Achievement Award for Best Paper in 2012 for her ground-breaking pilot study on the use of whole body vibration therapy to increase bone mass in Thalassemia patients, which was published in the American Journal of Hematology (2012; 87(10)E76-9). The study showed for the first time that using a whole body vibration platform improved bone mass over a six-month course of treatment, based on measurements of bone mineral content, areal bone mineral density, and individual serum markers.

"Ellen's study stood out for a number of reasons. For one, the research identifies something new and potentially important that could have significant impacts in treating a particular patient population," says CHORI Executive Director Alexander Lucas, PhD, who served on the committee of medical staff that selected this year's recipients. "But beyond that, Ellen really has had a sustained research effort in the area of bone health in thalassemia patients, and we wanted to recognize those continuous efforts."

“Ellen really has had a sustained research effort in the area of bone health in thalassemia patients, and we wanted to recognize those continuous efforts.”



Patients with thalassemia, an inherited disorder that impacts how well the body makes blood, have a wide variety of complications, including an inability to build enough bone, with 50 to 70 percent of adult thalassemia patients suffering from low bone mass. While one of the best ways to increase bone mass is through physical exercise, many thalassemia patients are physically limited due to thalassemia-related complications, including heart problems.

In contrast, whole vibration therapy consists of simply standing on a small, portable platform that makes a very mild, humming vibration, similar to what you might feel in a massage chair. Requiring only minutes a day, standing on the platform can be combined with television watching, talking on the telephone or reading to provide a very easily accessible therapy that has the potential to significantly increase bone mass in this population of patients for whom weight-bearing, cardio-vascular type physical exercise may not be an option.

The results of the study were conclusive, showing a positive response in bone makers, in whole body bone mass, and a significant correlation between the amount of time participants stood on the platform and increased bone density in the hip.

“I am truly grateful for the appreciation and excited for this research in particular to receive some attention, as it was not only fun to work on, but because I feel very strongly that this type of technology has the potential in the future to make a difference in the lives of patients with thalassemia,” says Dr. Fung.

“While the project was limited to less than 20 subjects, as it was intended to be a pilot study, even with these small numbers we were able to observe a significant effect. I would love to be able to build upon this work with a larger, longer study sometime soon, but for now, it was a great place to start.”

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