Human bones have a fantastic ability to repair injury, but some defects are so large or complicated that the healing process is delayed or absent. Such cases are treated through bone transplantation, usually with bone taken from the patient’s own pelvis.

That could all change, however, with a therapeutic “cocktail” researchers have developed.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues in Dresden, Germany, have developed a way to combine a bone substitute and drugs to regenerate bone and heal severe fractures in the thigh or shin bone. The study was published in Science Advances.

“The drugs and materials we used in the study for the regeneration of bone are already approved. We simply packaged them in a new combination. Therefore, there are no real obstacles to already using the method in clinical studies for certain major bone defects that are difficult to resolve in patients. But we want to introduce the technique in a controlled form via clinical studies and have recently been granted ethical approval.”

— Deepak Raina, orthopaedics researcher and the lead author of the study

Time for A New Solution

Raina notes that in cases involving severe open fractures in the lower leg more than 5% fail to heal. Taking bone from a patient’s pelvis is a highly invasive solution, one for which a simple, elegant method would be preferable. In response, research teams in Europe and the United States are working on improving the bone healing process.

So far, the injectable cocktail successfully mixed by the Swedish and German researchers consists of three different components: an artificial ceramic material developed in Lund, a bioactive bone protein (rhBMP-2) and a drug, bisphosphonate, that combats bone resorption, a media release from Lund University explains.

“The bone protein we use has had negative effects in previous studies due to a secondary premature bone resorption, among other things. We have successfully mitigated this effect with the bisphosphonate and, by packaging the drug in a slowly resorbing bone substitute, we can control the speed of release.

“In the current study with the combination, we achieved a six-fold reduction in the amount of protein compared to previous efforts, while still inducing bone formation. The result was that even fractures with an extensive bone defect could heal without complications. We believe this finding will be of great clinical use in the future.”

— Deepak Raina

[Source(s): Lund University, EurekAlert]

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