In cases of severe bone injuries caused by blasts and such other horrific accidents when the body can not effectively repair the damage on its own, clinicians often inject patients with proteins called growth factors to aid recovery.
The treatment is costly, requires large amounts of expensive growth factors and sometimes creates unwanted bone formation in the area around the injury.
This may soon change as researchers are now on course to develop a new technology that could deliver the growth factors more accurately and efficiently, leading to a cut in the amount of the proteins used.
In the study, researchers bound the most clinically-used growth factor called bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) with microparticles of the drug heparin at concentrations up to 1,000-fold higher than previously reported.
The growth factor also remained bioactive after long periods of time spent bound to the microparticles.
“The net result is more efficient and spatially controlled delivery of this very potent and very valuable protein,” said Todd McDevitt, an associate professor at Georgia Institute of Technology.
The research team developed a method of fabricating pure heparin microparticles from a modified heparin methacrylamide species that can be thermally cross-linked to growth factors.
The technology avoids the bulky materials currently used to deliver growth factors.
Heparin is a widely used anticoagulant with chemical properties that make it ideal for binding to growth factors.
The study appeared in the journal Biomaterials.