Bioengineering professor Ben Wu at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Kang Ting, Thomas R. Bales Professor at UCLA's School of Dentistry, are developing a new molecule they've named UCB, or University of California Bone.
The core technology developed by Wu and Ting is potentially the most significant advancement in bone regeneration since the discovery of bone morphogenetic proteins by Dr. Marshall Urist at UCLA in the 1960s.
"For the average person, this new development potentially means faster, more reliable bone healing with fewer side effects at a lower cost," Ting said. "In more severe cases, such as in children born with congenital anomalies, the new protein may offer an advanced solution to repair cleft palates, which involves bone deficiencies, and also aid in repairing other bone defects such as fractures, spinal fusion and implant integration."
UCB differs significantly from bone morphogenetic protein, the protein currently used by orthopedic surgeons to aid in bone repair, in that UCB potentially has fewer side effects. With bone morphogenetic proteins, bone formation has been observed to occur at locations outside of the intended implant site, and tissue other than bone also has been reported.
In contrast, UCB's main effects appear to be more specific towards bone formation process, giving surgeons increased control over where bone forms. According to Wu, UCB is more specific because it works downstream from the body's "master switch" for bone formation. Because the two molecules act on different targets, UCB also works synergistically with bone morphogenetic proteins to form more bone than typically is possible with bone morphogenetic proteins alone.