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UCLA researchers discover new method to generate human bone

key to success for these proteins is designing the right carrier -- using the protein alone is not effective. Currently, bone morphogenetic proteins are delivered with a collagen-sponge into the area where bone growth is needed. The sponge offers few biological benefits for the surgeon, and proteins can migrate away from the sponge.

In contrast, the team at UCLA is developing a carrier that is engineered for UCB activities in the biological environment.

"It's the right combination of carrier and protein that further increases the stability and activity of UCB," Ting said. "For certain clinical applications, we will need to develop injectable options that are minimally invasive. For other clinical applications, we will need moldable carriers that can hold the UCB in place better. By making life easier for the surgeons, they can focus on the surgery. Ultimately, the patient benefits."

Another current option is to use the patient's own bone grafted from another part of the body.

"Right now, we are doing a lot of spinal fusions and these fusions require us to have bone graft material. The problem with taking a patient's own bone for this procedure is that aside from the pain, which often becomes severe and persistent, there is a high risk of infection. This adds higher risk to the surgery," said Dr. Jeffrey Wang, chief of orthopaedic spine service at the UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center. "The discovery of UCB could potentially be a better way to do spinal fusion. Used in conjunction with cartilage growth, this discovery may completely change the way we look at things in the future."

Bone morphogenetic proteins, found in demineralized bone, were discovered in the 1960s, but until the advent of biotechnology, the arduous process and high cost associated with making them from animal-derived bone was deemed too difficult. To date, only two companies have received FDA approval for bone morphogenetic proteins, making the product costly
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Contact: Melissa Abraham
mabraham@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0540
University of California - Los Angeles
21-Apr-2005


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