Fixing Broken Bones with Gene Therapy and Microbubbles
Earlier this year, we saw a new method of delivering cancer drugs by encapsulating them inside microbubbles, enabling the precise delivery of the drug to target a tumour, thus improving the efficacy of the treatment.
But that’s not microbubbles’ only feature. Now, researchers have healed bone fracture by attracting stem cells to the area and injecting a mix of microbubbles and DNA encoding a bone protein at the break, Futurism writes. This method could replace bone grafting for nonhealing fractures.
Serious injuries that cause broken limb bones can be a challenge for even the best orthopedic surgeons. Regrowth can be impossible because of too much bone loss, or bone growth can be problematic because of a patient’s age or poor health.
When physicians encounter these kinds of nonhealing fractures, autologous bone grafts are usually the standard treatment. However, this treatment isn’t always possible, depending on the patient’s health and the extent of the damage from the break.
So researchers have come up with a new method, to use gene therapy to deliver not the protein itself, but the underlying gene. This way, the cells will get BMP at physiological levels solely at the site of the injury. Getting gene therapies into the right cells, however, isn’t always easy.
Getting gene therapies into the right cells, however, isn’t always easy. That’s why the researchers came up with a relatively new delivery mechanism; sonoporation.
In sonoporation, an ultrasound is used to cause gas-filled microbubbles with lipid shells to oscillate and create tiny, easily repaired holes in cells. These tiny holes allow DNA for gene therapy to enter into the right place without affecting other areas, Futurism explains.
The team targeted a special form of stem cells that can become bone cells and produce BMPs proficiently.
When trying their new strategy in broken pig shinbones, the researchers found that the technique actually healed fractures after a single dose.
This therapy could improve the recovery of millions of people around the world. Next stop, human trials?