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Can Broken Bones Heal Themselves? Microbubbles, Sound And Gene Therapy May Be The Answer

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Invasive bone grafts may be on the way out: A new gene therapy procedure using gas-filled microbubbles healed fractures in just 8 weeks.

CB Insights reports, broken bones often take much more than casts and splints to heal: In the US alone, about 100,000 people each year experience bone breaks so drastic that they don’t mend properly.

If treated inadequately, non-healed fractures can lead to disability or even death. Bone grafts can help these “non-union” fractures heal, but the invasive procedures are an unfeasible option for ill or aging patients (or severely damaged bones). And even for healthy individuals, bone grafts come with significant risk and lengthy recovery times.

A new treatment method could help more people bypass the need for bone grafts altogether: Leveraging a therapeutic technique known as sonoporation, Cedars-Sinai researchers used stem cells, gene therapy, and ultrasound-activated “microbubbles” to stimulate bone regeneration and fracture healing.

In trials on mini-pigs with broken shinbones, a single treatment of the microbubble-powered gene therapy was successful in healing fractures within just 8 weeks.