Quicker healing for older bones

More than 250,000 people are admitted to the hospital each year for hip fracture

Last week we wrote about Stanford stem cell scientist Jill Helms and her advice for our undergraduate and masters level Bridges trainees. In that talk she mentioned an unanticipated but successful career switch to the field of bone healing.

That career switch resulted in a paper in the July 17 issue of The Journal of Bone Growth and Surgery, which Krista Conger at Stanford wrote about in a press release. The paper, which includes two of the very Bridges she spoke to at our meeting, shows that in older animals, exposing bone to a chemical known as Wnt3a dramatically improves how quickly the bone heals. Helms says the work could help older adults heal after bone grafts.

“We’re very focused on designing a treatment that could be easily employed by orthopaedic surgeons in the normal course of bone grafting. We’ve shown that when we temporarily treat bone marrow from aged animals with Wnt before transplanting the cells into a fracture site, we see really robust bone formation.” 

She goes on to point out that a hip fracture triples the rate of dying the year after the injury.

“Our findings have direct implications for humans. As we age, our healing is much less robust. We now have reason to believe that this might be due in part to a general decline in Wnt signaling. If we can temporarily activate this signal while the marrow is outside the body, we might be able to provide a transient, much-needed boost to the activity of stem cells in the marrow.”

 Here’s a short video of Helms describing this work:

CIRM funding: (TR1-01219); Du Cheng (TB1-01190); Whitney Cole (TB1-01175)

Amy Adams

ResearchBlogging.orgLeucht P, Jiang J, Cheng D, Liu B, Dhamdhere G, Fang MY, Monica SD, Urena JJ, Cole W, Smith LR, Castillo AB, Longaker MT, & Helms JA (2013). Wnt3a reestablishes osteogenic capacity to bone grafts from aged animals. The Journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume, 95 (14), 1278-88 PMID: 23864176

3 thoughts on “Quicker healing for older bones

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