25 July 2012
Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have developed a new method of repairing bone using synthetic bone graft substitute material, which combined with gene therapy, can mimic real bone tissue and has potential to regenerate bone in patients who have lost large areas of bone from either disease or trauma.
The researchers have developed an innovative scaffold material (made from collagen and nano-sized particles of hydroxyapatite) which acts as a platform to attract the body’s own cells and repair bone in the damaged area using gene therapy. The cells are tricked into overproducing bone producing proteins known as BMPs, encouraging regrowth of healthy bone tissue. This is the first time these in-house synthesised nanoparticles have been used in this way and the method has potential to be applied to regenerate tissues in other parts of the body.
Professor Fergal O’Brien, Principal Investigator on the project explained: “Previously, synthetic bone grafts had proven successful in promoting new bone growth by infusing the scaffold material with bone producing proteins. These proteins are already clinically approved for bone repair in humans but concerns exist that the high doses of protein required in clinical treatments may potentially have negative side effects for the patient such as increasing the risk of cancer. Other existing gene therapies use viral methods which also carry risks”.
“By stimulating the body to produce the bone-producing protein itself, using non-viral methods these negative side effects can be avoided and bone tissue growth is promoted efficiently and safely,” Professor O’Brien said.