The occasional bone fracture from a sports injury, motor vehicle accident, or just plain bad luck may seem commonplace in today’s world of advanced medical treatments. Yet, there is always the possibility that the break won’t heal properly or quickly—even with the aid of pins, plates, or a cast. Scientists and physicians have unsuccessfully tried to overcome this potential problem through the administration of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). These regenerative factors were initially designed to promote spinal fusion and bone repair, but studies found that the molecules can over perform, causing excessive or misdirected bone growth.
Now a collaborative team of investigators, led by scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School, have discovered a new molecule they believe will provide the assisted growth to bones that was originally intended using BMPs. Findings from the new study were published today in npj Regenerative Medicine, in an article entitled “Intraoperative Delivery of the Notch Ligand Jagged-1 Regenerates Appendicular and Craniofacial Bone Defects.”
“Each year, 33% of US citizens suffer from a musculoskeletal condition that requires medical intervention, with direct medical costs approaching $1 trillion USD per year,” the researchers write. “Despite the ubiquity of skeletal dysfunction, there are currently limited safe and efficacious bone growth factors in clinical use.”
“Novel therapies have gone underdeveloped because of this assumption that bones heal without problem,” added senior study investigator Kurt Hankenson, D.V.M., Ph.D., a professor of orthopedic surgery at Michigan Medicine. “The reality is there’s a huge number of fractures that occur each year that don’t heal very well.”
Due to the limited number of options for aiding patients with bone healing, the research team began to look for novel approaches. What they attempted was the delivery of additional Jagged-1—a potent osteoinductive protein known to activate the Notch signaling pathway that regulates bone healing—at the spot of a bone injury.