UCSB professor Paul Hansma has cracked down on the reason why bones break with a quality measurement tool, which gauges how far bones are from the point of fracture.

Hansma, a professor of physics, will deliver a speech entitled “Why Do Bones Break?” at the Goleta Valley Library on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m., which is being hosted by the Friends of the Goleta Valley Library Lecture Series and is free and open to the general public. The speech will focus on a novel tool designed and built here in Santa Barbara by Hansma and his colleagues called the Reference Point Indentation instrument, which their research shows can measure bone quality.

The instrument was developed in response to the increase in health problems associated with bone fractures, a concern Hansma believes is not being fully addressed. Currently, treatments available are intended to reverse bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis, but Hansma said a different approach may be more beneficial.

“The tests that are used now measure how much bone you have — the bone quantity,” Hansma said. “The instrument I have been working on will measure bone quality. We really need to respond to the lack of prevention methods for fractures, and that is what we have been doing in my lab.”

The Reference Point Indentation instrument is the first of its kind, providing an alternate and hopefully superior method of bone fracture risk assessment.

“Our instrument is brand new and not yet approved for use on patients in the United States,” Hansma said. “Its ultimate goal however, is to be able to collect data on bone quality, and with that information develop drugs and nutritional supplements for the general public to prevent bone injury.”

The medical diagnostic instrument developed by Hansma and his colleagues is extremely complex, but Hansma said he envisions it one day improving the quality of people’s lives everywhere.

According to the Paul Hansma Research Group Web page, the tool consists of probes that are driven into the bone to create microscopic indentations, the distance between each notch’s increase representing the level of fracture risk.

Though the Goleta Valley Library generally hosts events planned for children in the community, branch supervisor Allison Gray said they are pleased to present a lecture intended for adult health awareness.

“We have many programs every month here at our library, but in terms of adult education and entertainment, we only host about one to two per month,” Gray said. “We are pleased to present Professor Paul Hansma this weekend.”