Good News for Broken Bones

Biomedical engineers at Vanderbilt University have demonstrated that they can grow healthy new bone in one part of the body and use it to repair damaged bone at a different location.

Orthopedic surgeons currently treat serious bone breaks by removing small pieces of bone from a patient's rib or hip and fusing them to the broken area. Although this procedure works well in the long run, bone removal is extremely painful and subject to complications. If the new bone repair method is approved in clinical studies, bioengineers will be able to grow bone for all kinds of repairs. For patients with serious diseases, they might even be able to grow replacement bone at an early stage and freeze it for later use.

Bioengineers conducted their bone growth research on mature rabbits, animals with bones very similar to humans. They created zones on the rabbit bone called "in vivo bioreactors," which filled with healthy bone six weeks later. Here's how it works: an outer layer called the periosteum covers long bones in our body. This layer is a bit like scotch tape, with a tough outer layer but cells underneath that can transform into different types of skeletal tissue. Researchers created the "in vivo" zones in rabbit bone by making tiny holes in the periosteum and filling them with saline water. Then they added a gel containing calcium, a trigger for bone growth. Within six weeks, the zones filled with new bones indistinguishable from the original.

"We have shown that we can grow predictable volumes of bone on demand," said V. Prasad Shastri, a biomedical engineer at Vanderbilt University who led the study. "And we did so by persuading the body to do what it already knows how to do."

The next step? Large animal studies and trials to determine if the procedure will work in humans.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I had an osteotomy of the left femur bone on June 4, 2004. The surgery was performed to reduce the femurs length by approximately 23mm. This was necessary to unnatural birth defects. An internal rod was placed through the center of bone to help secure the bone during bone cell regeneration. I am interested in this bone cell formation research because the fracture has yet to heal and a non-union has been declared. I have been using an ultra-sonic bone stimulator for about 3 months. I just had x-rays and the results showed very little if no signs of improvement. I am very desperate for help. I was wondering if there would be any trial experiments that would be offered in the near future to willing candidates for this bone cell forming research. Please feel free to contact me via email with any questions, comments, and updates on this research: [email protected]. Again I am very desperate. Any help or guidance would prove to be very beneficial. I hope to hear from someone in the near future. Thank you for your time and consideration.

posted on Mon, 08/15/2005 - 12:55pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

In a normal healthy human adult, about how long can a rib regenerate when removed? This assumes the periosteum is intact.

posted on Sun, 03/26/2006 - 6:31pm
Prasad Shastri's picture
Prasad Shastri says:

Dear Mr or Ms,

Definitely what we have developed is applicable to non-unions. We will be starting a clinical trial in about 6-9 months and that will allow us to set parameters for patient selection. Please keep in touch and hopefully we can help you.
Thank you for your interest in our research and your inquiry.


Prasad Shastri

posted on Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:59pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Thanks for your story. I wish you the best of luck in your healing process. I am not sure any of us here at the Science Buzz might be able to help much, but you might consider contacting the researchers envolved with this new technique.

bryan kennedy
Science Buzz Site Admin

posted on Mon, 08/15/2005 - 1:37pm

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