Bone grafts, which are used to treat head injuries and birth defects, still pose major medical challenges, but scientists are reporting progress toward a new hormone therapy that could improve the outcomes of these surgeries. Their study, which was conducted on mice, appears in the ACS journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.
Zulma Gazit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Edward Schwarz from Rochester University and colleagues note that surgeons perform nearly 100,000 head and facial bone-grafting procedures every year to treat bone loss from disease, birth defects or traumatic injuries.
Although this kind of reconstructive surgery dates back to ancient times, the options for implant materials remain limited. Doctors can remove bone from another part of a patient’s body or use lab-made materials, but these methods can lead to serious complications. Currently, one of the preferred alternatives is to use bone grafts received from tissue banks, but they often do not join with the bone they’re supposed to fix.
Preliminary studies have shown that parathyroid hormone (PTH), a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat osteoporosis, helps repair fractures in long bones. The team wanted to see whether PTH would also help head and facial donor grafts to fuse into place.
They tested the hormone in mice with skull defects that they implanted with donor grafts. Daily short-term PTH treatment improved bone formation around the grafts and prevented scar tissue, which can interfere with graft integration, from forming. ‘These findings will aid in the development of an attractive bone graft, which is readily available, for use in craniofacial reconstruction,’ said the researchers.