Bones x-ray illustration

New biomaterial accelerates bone healing in adults

  • Research

Research by scientists at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and Children’s Health Ireland at Temple Street has resulted in the development of a new biomaterial that recreates children’s superior bone-healing ability in adults.

The research findings are published in Biomaterials.

Led by Professor Fergal O’Brien, RCSI’s Director of Research and Innovation and Professor of Bioengineering and Regenerative Medicine, the team of researchers developed a biomaterial that was found to quickly repair large bone defects and reduce inflammation in adults after one month of use.

The biomaterial was developed by imitating the structure of bone tissue and activating a molecule called JNK3, a known driver of stem cell regeneration in children. The resulting biomaterial was found to be effective in adults, and safer than other drug-loaded biomaterials for bone repair that are associated with side-effects such as cancer, infection or off-site bone formation.

The research findings are now being used to develop a novel biomaterial for cartilage repair in adults. A follow-up project, funded by the Children’s Health Foundation, is underway to investigate if the molecular mechanisms found in children diagnosed with cranisosynostosis (a condition where the skull fuses too early and inhibits brain growth) could be used to develop a therapeutic biomaterial that accelerates bone formation and healing in adults.

The research was funded by the Children’s Health Foundation, the Health Research Board of Ireland under the Health Research Awards Patient-Oriented Research Scheme, the European Research Council under Horizon 2020 and Science Foundation Ireland through the Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research (AMBER) Centre.

Read a detailed scientific overview of this research on the RCSI Discover blog.