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A two-pronged tactic to grow new bone

Medicine@Yale, 2008 - May June

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School of Medicine researchers have devised a novel technique—removing bone marrow and injecting a hormone—that promotes rapid formation of new bone. “This could radically change the way patients are currently treated for weakened or fractured hips, vertebrae and acute traumatic long-bone fractures,” says senior author Agnès M. Vignery, D.D.S., Ph.D., associate professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation. Existing therapy, which involves surgery and artificial materials, often leads to unsatisfactory outcomes.

As reported in the February issue of Tissue Engineering: Part A, Vignery’s team removed marrow from thigh bones in rats and then gave them daily injections of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which stimulates bone growth (see right panel of photo). The procedure created new bone tissue that appeared structurally and biologically normal, and endowed the bone with improved biomechanical properties at a rate that can’t be achieved by injecting hormones alone, Vignery says.

New research will determine whether the newly formed bone can be preserved and whether the technique is effective in other animals.