UGA researchers develop 'fracture putty' from stem cells to speed up healing

UGA researchers develop 'fracture putty' from stem cells to speed up healing

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Apr 01, 2012

ATHENS, GA. — Veterinary and regenerative bioscience researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) developed a new putty that they say may significantly shorten healing times and revolutionize fracture treatment.

"In our experiences with large-animal models (sheep), following the guidelines established by our animal-care-and-use committee. We have been successful in formulating a product that contains mesenchymal stem cells and allows them to survive in the environment of the fracture long enough to elicit the rapid formation of new bone," says Dr. Steve Stice, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and director of the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center (RBC). He is working with Dr. John Peroni, an associate professor of large-animal surgery in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the RBC, on a large-animal research project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

Between 2009 and 2011, the project received a $1.4 million grant from the DOD for the use of stem cells in fracture healing.

This year, the group showed that bone can be generated in sheep in less than four weeks, according to UGA. The university says the speed in which bone is formed is one of the unique features of the study.

To start the bone-regeneration process, the researchers used adult stem cells that produce a protein involved in bone healing and generation. They incorporated these stem cells into a gel, which Stice calls fracture putty.

With Peroni's assistance, the Athens-based team used a stabilizing device and inserted this putty into fractures in rats. Video of the animals after two weeks shows the rats running around and standing on their hind legs with no evidence of injury. The RBC researchers are also testing the material in pigs and sheep, UGA notes.

"The next step is to show that we can rapidly and consistently heal fractures in a large animal," Peroni says.

Once a successful product is developed for animals, it will be passed over to the DOD for use in people, UGA says, where there are hopes the technology can be used to treat common battle injuries.