A simple ingredient used in cheap paint could help to repair broken bones, Scottish scientists say.
Experts have developed a new technique to aid bone regeneration, paving the way for treatments for spinal injuries and bone grafts needed by cancer patients or people injured in car accidents.
A growth factor molecule known as BMP-2 has been in use several years to help bone regrowth but the protein passes too quickly through the body for wide use.
Only very high doses would prevent this from happening but these quantities bring harmful side effects, such as brain damage or tumours.
New research has revealed that a cheap ingredient in acrylic paints, fibres and textiles, known as poly(ethyl acrylate), could be coated on bone grafts to allow growth factors to work at much lower doses.
The findings could reduce the risk of harmful side effects and also lower the costs. Matthew Dalby, Professor of Cell Engineering at Glasgow University, said: “In itself, the polymer we’re using seems fairly unremarkable but we’ve discovered that it has enormous potential for clinical applications.
“The ease in which the polymer can be used to do something very biologically complex is extraordinary and mimics the way growth factors are used naturally in the body.”
Campaigners welcomed the research, which is published today in Science Advances journal.
Sarah Leyland, of the National Osteoporosis Society, said: “The broken bones osteoporosis causes can often be debilitating and life-changing.
“Although much more work is needed into this area, the National Osteoporosis Society welcomes any research which aims to improve our understanding of bone regeneration and healing and helps those affected by fractures.”
The team hope to conduct the first human trial into the technology within the next five years.