Tuesday, 07 February 2012 11:58
Researchers at the University of Georgia have made strides in the development of a biologically based treatment for broken bones that could reduce the healing process to a matter of weeks rather than months, according to UGA Today.
The work, funded by the Department of Defense, has been spread across several universities including Baylor University College of Medicine, Rice University and the University of Texas, but now researcher at UGA's Regenerative Bioscience Center believe they could take the treatment to a critical next phase.
The new approach makes use of stem cells suspended in a gel that Steve Stice, the director of the RBC, refers to as "fracture putty." This putty is applied directly to the damaged part of the bone where the stem cells produce a protein that is critical to the formation of new bone tissues before dying.
The presence of this protein, combined with appropriate stabilization as is used in traditional approaches, has been shown to dramatically reduce the time needed for healing among mice and sheep. The sheep were able to recover from a fracture in less than four weeks.
Now the approach is being tested on pigs and researchers hope it will be adopted by the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, which regularly deals with fractures in large animals. This could help move the project closer to human trials.
Though a fracture may seem on its face like a less serious concern for the military, Stice notes that complex fractures of the sort that the new fracture putty could help address are one important cause of amputations among soldiers and many others are forced to deal with months of recovery with limited mobility.
"For many young soldiers, their mental health becomes a real issue when they are confined to a bed for three-to-six months after an injury," Stice noted. "This discovery may allow them to be up and moving as fast as days afterward."
The researchers note that theirs is not the only approach to improving bone regeneration, with others focusing on replacement and the use of new polymers. Medicalxpress.com reports on one team from the University of California at Davis that has developed a means of synthesizing an important protein for bone regeneration, much like the approach at UGA, that can be injected directly.
Another recent success was the implantation of an artificial jawbone constructed using a 3-D printing process.
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