Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Drug bid to boost bone healing after fractures

Published 22/11/2015

The research aims to aid bone healing
The research aims to aid bone healing

A new drug is being developed to help bones heal faster and better to help older people recover more quickly after suffering a fracture.

Using bone samples from people undergoing hip replacement surgery, researchers from the University of Southampton were able to show that the drug - a protein that activates a molecular pathway called the 'Wnt' pathway - causes stem cells found within bones to divide and to turn into more bone cells.

A university spokesman explained: "The Wnt pathway is found throughout the animal kingdom - from sponges to humans - and it plays a fundamental role in animal development and disease. It is involved in controlling the growth of stem cells, which are 'master cells' that help restore tissues after injury. One example of this is in amphibians like salamanders. If these animals lose a leg, they can just regrow a new one."

Dr Nick Evans, associate professor in bioengineering, said: "Bone fractures are a big problem in society, especially in older people. It is getting worse as more people get older and their risk of fracture increases. Most fractures heal completely by themselves, but a surprising number, around 10%, take over six months to heal, or never heal at all. In the worst cases this can lead to several surgical operations, or even amputation.

"Through our research, we are trying to find ways to chemically stimulate Wnt signalling using drugs. To achieve this, we selectively deliver proteins and other molecules that change Wnt signalling specifically to stem cells, particularly in the bone. This may help us find cures for many diseases, including bone disease, and speed up bone healing after fracture."

However the researchers found that if the Wnt pathway was switched on too long, the regenerative effect was lost, or even reversed.

Dr Evans said: "This is why it is particularly important to develop technologies for timed and targeted delivery, which is what we have done in this research."

The research is published in the journal Stem Cells.

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph