Researchers on their way to developing new drug for bone repair

A team from the University of Southampton (UK) develops a new approach that will help accelerate bone repair via modulation of Wnt pathway.

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Nov 26, 2015

Inspired by amphibians such as salamanders, researchers from the University Of Southampton (UK) are on their way to develop a new type of drug that may help bones heal faster and better. The study was recently published in Cell.

Using bone samples from patients undergoing hip replacement surgery, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the drug – a protein that activates a molecular pathway called the ‘Wnt’ pathway – is able to induce osteogenesis.

The Wnt pathway is found throughout the animal kingdom – from sponges to humans – and plays a fundamental role in animal development and disease. It is involved in controlling and promoting the development of stem cells. The importance of the Wnt pathway in these cells can be observed in salamanders for example, which are able to regenerate a new leg if they lose one.

“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,” explained Nick Evans, lead author of the study. “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 signaling using drugs,” he added. “To achieve this, we selectively deliver proteins and other molecules that change Wnt signaling 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.”

The researchers also found that if the Wnt pathway was stimulated for too long; the regenerative effect was lost or reversed, thus preventing osteogenesis.

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

Sources: Janeczeik AA, Tare RS, Scarpa E et al. Transient Canonical Wnt Stimulation Enriches Human Bone Marrow Mononuclear Cell Isolates for Osteoprogenitors. Cell doi:10.1002/stem.2241 (2015) (Epub before print);

Go to the profile of Elena Conroy

Elena Conroy

Contributor, Future Science Group

If you have any interest in submitting to the journal Regenerative Medicine or have any queries, please don't hesitate to contact my colleague Adam, Commissioning Editor of the journal

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