Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting close to Real Life Skele-Gro? Harry Potter was onto something...

Fans of the Harry Potter books know that in the second book, The Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter loses his bones when his bumbling professor tries to repair his fracture on the Quidditch field. The school nurse had to use the magic potion, Skele-grow to regrow his bones. This scenario would be great in real life, as bones from severe breaks could be repaired effortlessly.

Skele-gro is a great fiction solution, however, scientists have now developed a "fracture putty" that allows bones to repair themselves faster. A study conducted by Steve Stice through the University of Georgia is aiming at studying the regenerative capacity of large animals (Discovery Uses 'Fracture Putty' to Repair Broken Bone in Days). A major challenge of healing large bone fracture is the ability to both stabilize the defects and induce high levels of proliferation to replace the damaged tissue. Stice's previous study helped answer this challenge by formulating mesenchymal stem cell that were able to survive in the bone environment long enough to initiate proliferation.

To make the "fracture putty", the team used adult stem cells to produce a protein involved in bone regeneration, which was then placed in a gel-like substance. The putty was subsequently injected into rat hind leg fractures. Two weeks later, the rats were observed running and standing on their hind legs (with all the damage healed)! The putty is being tested in pigs and sheep as well. The next steps would be testing it in larger animal models. In terms of human applications, this putty would be very useful in battlefield situations, where a lot of amputations occur because a fracture is too complex or will take a long time to heal.

Ever thought Skele-gro was a stretch? Perhaps, but now it's been replaced with the realities of "fracture putty!" How maddening!


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