New Polymer Sphere Can Help Bones Regrow Themselves

Monday, 18 January 2016 - 11:44AM
Medical Tech
Monday, 18 January 2016 - 11:44AM
The age of Terminator biotechnology is officially upon us. 

Scientists at the University of Michigan have developed a polymer sphere that delivers a molecule to bone wounds that tells cells at the injury site to repair the damage. 

Using the polymer sphere to introduce the microRNA molecule into cells elevates the job of existing cells to that of injury repair by instructing the cells' healing and bone building mechanisms to switch on, explains Peter Ma, professor of dentistry and lead researcher on the project. To put it more simply, it's like a new supervisor ordering an office cleaning crew to start constructing an addition to the building. It's typically very difficult for microRNA to breach the fortress of a cell wall, but the polymer sphere Ma developed is able to easily enter the cell to deliver its payload. 
[An illustration of the "double shell" technology, where a spehere of miRNA is encased in a polymer]

Each sphere contains micro RNA- 26a, and is made from biodegradable materials. The spheres are attached to cell-free nanofibrous polymer scaffolds, which are in turn implanted into the biological host (in this case the mouse). It's unclear exactly how these implantations occur, but its hopefully something as minimally invasive and maximally effective as the Skele-Grow potion that Harry Potter drinks to regrow his bones. 
[An illustration of the way the sphere is inserted into the mouse, and then how it functions once inside.]

This technology can help grow bones in people with oral implants or tooth decay, and those undergoing bone surgery or joint repair. The microRNA is time-released, which allows for therapy that lasts for up to a month or longer. 

Using existing cells to repair wounds reduces the need to introduce foreign cells, which is a very difficult therapy because cells have their own personalities, so to speak, which can result in the host rejecting the foreign cells or creating tumors, says Ma. 

So far, Ma's lab was able to heal bone wounds in mice with osteoporosis, a disease that results in decreased bone strength and subsequent frequent bone breakages. The next step is to study the technology in larger animals, and evaluate it for use in humans. 

Medical Tech

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