Recreating embryonic conditions could help to heal broken bones faster

An image to illustrate how embryonic conditions can help to heal broken bones faster
© iStock/Jurgute

Researchers have developed a unique technique using stem cells to recreate embryonic conditions at a break site to heal broken bones faster.

The stem cells applied at break sites experience some mechanical stress due to the new technique, as they would in embryonic conditions. This may help to heal broken bones faster because it can encourage stem cells to differentiate into cartilage and bone and encourage other cells in the bone to regenerate.

Forming and healing broken bones

According to Eben Alsberg, the Richard and Loan Hill Professor of Bioengineering and Orthopaedics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a senior author on the paper, stem cells require environmental cues for cell differentiation into unique tissues. The stem cells which are responsible for bone and cartilage are subject to mechanical forces while developing and healing.

Alsberg and colleagues created a unique preparation of the cells that can be easily handled and manipulated for implantation and support the cellular differentiation that occurs in embryonic conditions of bone development.

Boerckel has also developed a unique flexible fixator, which is a metal plate used to stabilise bones and break sites and minimise the amount of mechanical stress that broken bones experience while healing. The researchers tested the condensate sheets and a flexible fixator on rats with a femur defect and found that there was enhanced healing and better mechanical function hat in the control rats with condensates and traditional stiff fixators.

Regenerative rehabilitation

Joel Boerckel, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and bioengineering at Penn Medicine and a senior author on the paper, explained: “Devices and techniques we develop out of this research could also influence the way we implement physical therapy after injury. Our findings support the emerging paradigm of ‘regenerative rehabilitation,’ a concept that marries principles from physical therapy and regenerative medicine. Our goals are to understand how mechanical stimuli influence cell behaviour to better impact patient outcomes without additional drugs or devices.”

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