Scientists believe they have pinpointed the “youth factor” inside bone marrow cells that speeds healing: the macrophage. It is a type of white blood cell that secretes proteins that researchers suggest can have a rejuvenating effect on tissue.

The study from Duke Health researchers was published recently in Nature Communications.

“Delayed fracture healing is a major health issue in aging, and strategies to improve the pace of repair and prevent the need for additional surgeries to achieve healing substantially improve patient outcomes,” says senior author Benjamin Alman, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Duke.

After tissue injury, the body dispatches macrophages to areas of trauma, where they undergo functional changes to coordinate tissue repair.

During fracture healing, macrophages are found at the fracture site. But when they’re depleted, fractures will not heal effectively. Macrophage populations and characteristics can change with aging, explains a media release from Duke University Medical Center.

“We show that young macrophage cells produce factors that lead to bone formation, and when introduced in older mice, improves fracture healing,” says Gurpreet Baht, PhD, assistant professor in orthopedic surgery and a lead author of the study.

“While macrophages are known to play a role in repair and regeneration, prior studies do not identify secreted factors responsible for the effect,” Alman adds. “Here we show that young macrophage cells play a role in the rejuvenation process, and injection of one of the factors produced by the young cells into a fracture in old mice rejuvenates the pace of repair. This suggests a new therapeutic approach to fracture rejuvenation.”

[Source(s): Duke University Medical Center, Science Daily]