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June 9, 2022

Bone Therapy

Each year, 6.8 million Americans fracture a bone. Most often, the body begins forming new bone about two weeks after the break. But sometimes, it needs a little help! Could 3D bioprinting of living human tissue be the answer? Learn more on NSF's "The Discovery Files."

Credit: National Science Foundation

Bone Therapy

This is The Discovery Files, from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Are you one of the 6.8 million Americans annually that fracture a bone? In most cases, about two weeks after a bone is broken, our body steps in and begins forming new bone, to reconnect the broken pieces.

But sometimes, our body needs a little help in the healing process. The key proteins needed to manage the natural repair of broken bone are not always there.

Supported in part by NSF, researchers at Penn State University are working with a team that is bioprinting bone, encoding two growth factor genes to enhance healing and to regenerate bone.

Bioprinting is a 3-D printing technology that uses living cells to manufacture tissue for reconstructive surgery. A growth factor is a naturally occurring substance that promotes cell growth.

One gene the team used stimulates cells to multiply and migrate to the defective area. The other is a bone protein that generates new bone growth. It is gene therapy for broken bones!

The team realized if they simply used the natural growth factors, it would limit the amount of the important protein available. But if they used the novel bioprinting gene therapy process, the cells would continue to produce those essential growth factors.

Bioprinting bones could one day accelerate the healing process of broken bones.

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