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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Breathing Life into Dead Bones
24 February 2005 (All day)
Gene therapy can bring dead bone back to life, researchers now say. The breakthrough could help thousands of individuals whose injuries or diseases necessitate bone transplants.
Doctors treat severe bone damage and cancer by replacing the affected bone with sections of bone from a cadaver. But this dead bone accumulates microfractures and breaks over time, requiring complicated reconstructive surgery or even amputation. That's because dead bone does not constantly repair itself like normal bone does. And unlike living bone, dead bone cannot help the body maintain proper calcium levels. It also forms scar tissue, cutting it off from the body's blood supply. Edward Schwarz, a molecular immunologist at the University of Rochester, New York, wondered if the key to converting dead bones into living ones was restoring this blood supply and calcium regulation.
To investigate, Schwarz and colleagues observed mice implanted with healthy and dead bone implants. They found two genes involved in blood vessel growth and calcium regulation that were turned on near the living bones but not near the dead ones. The team then incorporated these genes into a freeze-dried virus and painted it on dead bone before implanting it. The technique worked. The virus-coated bone tricked the body into infusing it with blood vessels and allowing it to regulate calcium release. This effectively turned the dead bone into living bone, says Schwarz. The team reported its results this week in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society and will publish its findings next month in Nature Medicine.
The work has important implications for certain types of cancer, says Arthur Gertzman, executive vice-president for research and development at the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation in Edison, New Jersey. "Schwarz's technique revitalizes the bone along its length and thickness" and will offer those with bone cancer an alternative to amputation, he says.