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Slipped and fell? “This gel can be put in a syringe and injected at the site of injury. once the complications were taken care of by the surgeon it would be a minor procedure," says Jennifer Mumaw. The fracture putty differs from surgical cement, which is more like an artificial prosthetic used to fill gaps.

IN

2008, researchers at Baylor and Rice began developing something extraordinary. The idea afoot was to devise a substance that could be injected into fractures with the power to heal them in only days. The work wound up being translated into action by a team at UGA’s Regenerative Bioscience Center under the direction of Steve Stice, professor and GRA Eminent Scholar in animal science and John Peroni, a professor of large animal medicine. The Regenerative Bioscience Center received Department of Defense funding through a Baylor Medical School to work in tandem with the other research universities. In cooperation with one another, they developed a surgical putty, or gel, to be surgically injected and molded to repair broken bones. The translucent substance more closely resembles a gel, although researchers refer to it as putty. Once injected, it starts releasing powerful proteins that initiate bone formation using the animal’s own cells. The full required healing time? Three weeks. “Baylor and Rice, and other institutions, did much of the initial research. Baylor developed the virus and Rice developed the polymer,” explains post-doctoral UGA researcher Jennifer Mumaw, who has recently begun veterinary studies. ”They have been integral parts of the process.” According to Mumaw and her team member, Erin Jordan, preliminary gene therapy was done at Baylor and the development of the experimental substance was done at Rice. Mumaw has published articles with highly detailed scans of the hydrogel that is also known to the researchers involved as “fracture putty." The injectable putty immediately jumpstarts rapid healing. “It feels like a gel and it’s called ‘micro-encapsulation’,” she says. “Microscopically, it looks like round circles. In reality

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it is a billion of these circles with cells on the inside—a circle of jelly with cells." The injected putty rapidly increases the natural rate of bone healing in the region of the fracture. The stem cell methodologies to create the gel are crucial. “We used sheep stem cells,” says Mumaw, who holds two UGA degrees, a BS and PhD, and has worked on the research since 2009. The sheep stem cells have the advantage of being well-tolerated. Are human trials on the near horizon? The answer is a qualified “yes.” Human trials might be five years away, Mumaw answers, sooner perhaps in veterinary applications. Beside her, team member Erin Jordan nods agreement. Jordan also attended undergraduate and graduate school at UGA, and presently works at the Regenerative Bioscience Center under Stice. “Stice’s lab is one of the larger on campus,” adds Mumaw. Both Jordan and Mumaw worked in his lab initially.

Winter 13 - UGAGS Magazine  

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