March 8 (UPI) -- Researchers at Northwestern University have engineered a potent protein that has shown success at regrowing bone in mice.
Current treatments to repair injuries or defects to bone often involve surgery to graft bone from other parts of a patient's body. This procedure is often painful and can be especially difficult when treating injuries and damage to the skull or facial bones.
The team from Northwestern were able to regenerate the skull bone in a mouse with supporting blood vessels in the discrete area needed without developing scar tissue and faster than current methods.
"The results are very exciting," Guillermo Ameer, professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and professor of surgery at Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release. "This project was a true collaborative team effort in which our Regenerative Engineering Laboratory provided the biomaterials expertise."
The team harvested skull cells from a mouse and engineered them to produce a potent protein known as BMP9 to promote bone growth by using a hydrogel, which served as a temporary scaffolding to deliver and contain the cells in the specific affected area.
BMP9 promotes bone cell growth faster than other types of BMPs and improves the creation of blood vessels in the affected area. The scaffolding material, known as PPCN-g, that the team developed is a liquid based on citric acid, which turns into a gel-like elastic when warmed to body temperature.
"When applied, the liquid, which contains cells capable of producing bone, will conform to the shape of the bone defect to make a perfect fit," Ameer said. "It then stays in place as a gel, localizing the cells to the site for the duration of the repair. What we found is that these cells make natural-looking bone in the presence of the PPCN-g. The new bone is very similar to normal bone in that location."
The technique was successful at regenerating better quality bone, localized bone growth to promote faster healing and no scar tissue developed between the new and old bone material.
The study was published in PLOS One.