Scientists from Southfield’s Beaumont Health and the Imperial College London have discovered that a combination of two commonly available drugs could boost the body’s ability to heal bone fractures. The medications elevate the body’s repair processes, triggering the release of stem cells from bone marrow.
The research has been published in the journal npj Regenerative Medicine. The two drugs are currently used for bone marrow transplants and bladder control.
“While more research is needed, we are encouraged by the results which suggests it may be possible to repurpose Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs to enhance the way our own stem cells are able to respond to injury and surgery,” says Kevin Baker, who led the study performed at Beaumont. “We are also examining the potential to enhance healing of other musculoskeletal tissues besides bone.”
When a person has a disease or injury, bone marrow, a spongy tissue within bone, mobilizes different types of stem cells to help repair and regenerate tissue. The new research suggests it may be possible to boost the body’s ability to repair itself and speed repair by using new drug combinations to put the bone marrow into a state of red alert and send specific kinds of stem cells into action.
The drugs made the bone marrow release mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cells that can turn into bone.
“The body repairs itself all the time,” says Sara Rankin, a professor and corresponding author of the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. “We know that when bones break, they will heal, and this requires the activation of stem cells in the bone. However, when the damage is severe, there are limits to what the body can do of its own accord. We hope that by using these existing medications to mobilize stem cells, we could potentially call up extra numbers of these stem cells, in order to boost our bodies’ own ability to mend itself and accelerate the repair process. Further down the line, our work could lead to new treatments to repair all types of bone fractures.”
The study was funded by Wellcome, the Lumbar Spine Research Society, and the National Heart and Lung Institute Foundation.
Beaumont Health and has eight hospitals with 3,429 beds, 145 outpatient sites, nearly 5,000 physicians, 38,000 employees, and 3,500 volunteers.