No Bones About It

There have been a number of breakthroughs recently in relation to bone repair and bone growth. Now, scientists from the University of Michigan have created a polymer sphere that is capable of delivering a molecule to bone wounds and can prompt cells at the injury site to begin its healing and bone-building mechanisms.

Think of it like a supervisor asking an office cleaning crew to start construction, says Peter Ma, lead researcher, in the press release.

The polymer sphere delivers the microRNA into cells already at the wound site. Image credit: Peter Ma

The method ultimately reduces the need to introduce foreign cells into the body, which is good, and foreign cells often prove to be difficult given how distinct and unique our individual cells are. Typically, when we do resort to using foreign cells, it results in the host rejecting the cells, and it can even lead to tumors.

Using microRNA molecules via time-release, the therapy can last for much longer.


Normally, microRNA finds it difficult to breach the fortress that is the cell wall; however, the polymer sphere that the scientists created can easily enter, and efficiently deliver, the microRNA.

The work was recently published in Nature Communications, and it covers how the work can be applied to those with conditions who require oral implants, anyone undergoing bone surgery, and even individuals suffering from joint decline and tooth decay.

"The new technology we have been working on opens doors for new therapies using DNA and RNA in regenerative medicine and boosts the possibility of dealing with other challenging human diseases," said Ma.

While bone repair remains challenging, particularly among patients with healing problems, the study has also shown success in terms of healing bone wounds in osteoporotic mice.

The researchers’ next step now is to study if the technology can work in larger animals and evaluate its possible efficacy for use in humans.

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