They stimulated the rapid bone growth by injecting a protein called Wnt known to be involved in the growth of many types of tissues in animals like salamanders, zebrafish and mice. The feat marks the first time that researchers have managed to package the Wnt protein in a form that could be used in humans, and opens the door to additional experiments to heal skin, muscle, brain and other tissue injuries.
“We believe our strategy has the therapeutic potential to accelerate and improve tissue healing in a variety of contexts,” said Jill Helms, DDS, PhD, professor of surgery. “There is an enormous amount of literature about the role of Wnt in tissue growth, but until now we’ve not been able to directly test whether Wnt proteins could aid regeneration in mammals.” It may also eventually provide a much needed alternative to currently available drugs based on bone morphogenetic proteins, or BMPs. BMPs have been approved for use in humans to speed bone growth in spinal fusions and long bone fractures, but they’ve become increasingly associated with a number of adverse side effects.