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A new study from KTH shows that a gel based on mucus from cows can facilitate the healing of severe bone injuries. It can also be used to produce synthetic bone graft material. With such a material, doctors can avoid taking healthy bone from the patient to replace dead bone tissue.
The researchers tested the gel on rats and found that it can help solve two important requirements for the successful healing of bone fractures and similar injuries. Namely, it can both promote the formation of bones and blood vessels as well as reduce the risk of inflammation.
When bone damage is on the mend, blood vessels in newly formed bone must connect with the vessels of the host bone to form part of the network of blood vessels that connect the new bone to the heart. The gel also interacts with the immune system in a way that reduces the risk of inflammation.
"Mucus protects the body from invaders such as bacteria and viruses and maintains hemostasis in tissues, where mucins play an important role. The regenerative method, using the body's own cells through synthetic active materials, offers a way to promote bone healing. Grafting from a patient's own bone tissue has its limitations. For example, there may be an insufficient supply of healthy tissue. It can also be particularly risky for people with poor bone quality, such as older people," says Hongji Yan, researcher at KTH and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
The gel is not yet ready for clinical use, but the researchers plan to move forward with more extensive studies to reach that point in the future.