By: 11 January 2016
New approach to help bones heal faster and better

New approach to help bones heal faster and better

Researchers from the University of Southampton are developing a new type of drug that may help bones heal faster and better.

Using bone samples from patients undergoing hip replacement surgery, they have shown that the drug activates a molecular pathway (Wnt) that causes stem cells within bones to divide and turn into more bone cells. The Wnt pathway plays a fundamental role in animal development and disease, and is involved in controlling the growth of stem cells.

Lead author Nick Evans, associate professor in bioengineering at the university, 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 per cent, 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 for too long, the regenerative effect was lost or even reversed.

“This is why it is particularly important to develop technologies for timed and targeted delivery, which is what we have done in this research,” Evans added.

Source: University of Southampton



Janeczek, A.A., et al. (2015) Transient canonical Wnt stimulation enriches human bone marrow mononuclear cell isolates for osteoprogenitors. Stem Cells doi: 10.1002/stem.2241