New RCSI biomaterial shows promise for healing bones faster

27 Nov 2020

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A team from RCSI has created a new biomaterial that, pending clinical trials, could be used to help heal bones significantly faster than before.

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have described their new biomaterial as “very promising”. Writing in the journal Biomaterials, they said this new material has the potential to help heal bones significant faster by enhancing adults’ stem cell regenerative ability.

The development is based on the team’s previous discovery of a molecule called JNK3, a key driver of children’s stem cells, which are more sensitive to their environment and better at regenerating than those in adults. This, in part, explains how children’s bones can heal quicker and better.

With this knowledge, the RCSI biomaterial attempts to mimic the structure of bone tissue and incorporates nanoparticles that activate JNK3.

So far, pre-clinical modelling has shown the biomaterial to quickly repair large bone defects and reduce inflammation after one month of use. The researchers also said that it proved to be safer and as effective as drug-loaded biomaterials for bone repair, which have been associated with side effects including cancer or infection.

More testing needed

“While more testing is needed before we can begin clinical trials, these results are very promising,” said Prof Fergal O’Brien, the study’s principal investigator and RCSI’s director of research and innovation.

“This study has shown that understanding stem cell mechanobiology can help identify alternative therapeutic molecules for repairing large defects in bone, and potentially other body tissues.”

The research was carried out by members of the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) and the Science Foundation Ireland AMBER Centre, in collaboration with a team from Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street Hospital.

Dr Arlyng Gonzalez Vazquez, a research fellow at TERG and first author of the study, added: “We have now proven that identifying mechanobiology-inspired therapeutic targets can be used to engineer smart biomaterials that recreate children’s superior healing capacity in adults’ stem cells. We are using the same strategy to develop a novel biomaterial for cartilage repair in adults.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic