Study finds protein that may help heal fractures

February 14, 2013

Topic: orthopaedic research

Study finds protein that may help heal fractures

New orthopaedic research published in the journal Stem Cells reveals that a certain biological pathway may be the key to stimulating bone growth. The finding could potentially be helpful in healing orthopaedic fractures as well as other medical problems.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine found that a protein, called Jagged-1, stimulates human stem cells to differentiate into osteoclasts, which are cells that produce bone. They are currently focusing on finding a way to deliver this protein to sites in the body that can benefit from bone growth.

In the past, the researchers have paid attention to another protein, BMP, which helps individuals heal from broken bones. It has also been beneficial in allowing surgeons to perform spinal fusions without being dependent on the patients' original bone tissue. However, the scientists found that using BMP was not as safe or as efficient as they wanted it to be. This is how they moved on to looking at Jagged-1, with which they observed better success. 

Besides promoting the healing process of bone fractures, Jagged-1 may also be beneficial in the treatment of Alagille Syndrome. This rare genetic disorder, which can affect the liver, heart and other parts of the body, is seen in approximately one in every 70,000 newborns, according to the National Institutes of Health's Genetics Home Reference. Affected individuals are born with abnormal bile ducts, which, in turn, cause liver damage, preventing the organ from being able to eliminate waste from the bloodstream.

The reason that Jagged-1 may potentially help treat these patients is because 90 percent of Alagille syndrome cases are the result of mutations in the JAG1 gene, and another 7 percent of them involve small deletions of genetic material on the chromosome that includes this gene.  

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