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|A schematic representation of the experimental design.|
Credit: Image courtesy of Northwestern University
“The results are very exciting,” said Guillermo Ameer, professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, and professor of surgery at Feinberg School of Medicine.
“This project was a true collaborative team effort in which our Regenerative Engineering Laboratory provided the biomaterials expertise,” Ameer said.
But if all goes well with this new approach, it may make painful bone grafting obsolete…
Using calvaria or skull cells from the subject meant the body didn’t reject those cells…
“When applied, the liquid, which contains cells capable of producing bone, will conform to the shape of the bone defect to make a perfect fit,” Ameer said. “It then stays in place as a gel, localizing the cells to the site for the duration of the repair.” As the bone regrows, the PPCN-g is reabsorbed by the body.
“What we found is that these cells make natural-looking bone in the presence of the PPCN-g,” Ameer said. “The new bone is very similar to normal bone in that location.”
“The reconstruction procedure is a lot easier when you can harvest a few cells, make them produce the BMP9 protein, mix them in the PPCN-g solution, and apply it to the bone defect site to jump-start the new bone growth process where you want it.” Ameer said.
Ameer cautioned that the technology is years away to being used in humans, but added, “We did show proof of concept that we can heal large defects in the skull that would normally not heal on their own using a protein, cells and a new material that come together in a completely new way. Our team is very excited about these findings and the future of reconstructive surgery.”