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Bioengineering Breakthrough to Improve Bone Regeneration Treatments

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 12 Jun 2024

Growth factor therapies, which involve the targeted delivery of specific proteins to stimulate tissue regeneration, are promising techniques for enhancing the body's natural healing processes. However, these therapies can lead to significant side effects when applied to bone healing. To be effective, active proteins must be administered in high concentrations at the site of bone fractures or defects. This can result in uncontrolled growth factor release, leading to ectopic bone formation, where bone grows in unintended places. Additionally, these treatments can trigger postoperative inflammation, adversely affecting patients' health.

In a significant bioengineering advancement, researchers at the University of Glasgow (Glasgow, Scotland) have discovered a novel approach to utilize growth factors for bone repair without the adverse effects associated with previous methods, promising improved outcomes for patients. This innovation could pave the way for developing new therapeutic options for individuals with severe skeletal injuries or cancer patients needing to regenerate bone tissue lost to illness.

Image: The bioengineering breakthrough helps repair damaged bones without causing negative side effects (Photo courtesy of Dhawan, et al.; https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202310789)
Image: The bioengineering breakthrough helps repair damaged bones without causing negative side effects (Photo courtesy of Dhawan, et al.; https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202310789)

The team employed a cost-effective polymer known as poly(ethyl acrylate), or PEA, to create a surgical implant suitable for use in bone defects. The implant's surface possesses unique properties that allow it to bind the body’s inactive growth factors, activating them only at the necessary site. The researchers tested the efficacy of these implants in mice with significant bone defects and observed complete regeneration of the bone and controlled bone formation in the targeted areas throughout the study. The findings of the study were published in Advanced Materials on June 6, 2024

“The biological processes that underpin this study have been understood for more than two decades, but this is the first time that they’ve been harnessed to produce this regenerative effect,” said Dr. Udesh Dhawan, Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering. “Being able to deliver immobilized proteins directly to the treatment site in this way provides much more control over how growth factors become active and start the healing process. It also works at much lower concentrations than previous treatments, helping further minimize the chances of unwanted bone growth beyond the site in need of healing.”

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University of Glasgow 

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