I admit that I desperately want to live in the era of Star Trek or the world of Harry Potter right now. Repairing injuries and even regrowing bones and tissues would be pretty awesome given that the surgeon ended up removing three bones from my wrist on this last go. At the time he told me what procedure he had done (there were some surprises when he opened my wrist up that necessitated a change in plan), we talked about the long term consequences. But as we talked about 20 years down the line I couldn’t help but think who knows what the options will be in 20 years. Which of course made me wonder where are we at right now.
Dumanian et al (2017) just published results of a study where they tested the ability to regrow skull with an eye to repairing damage caused by trauma or defects. They used a biodegradable scaffold that contained a protein derived from the skull cells of the individual mice they were using in the experiment. The scaffold is thermoresponsive so it will conform to the shape of the defect when it is warmed to the temperature of the body. This creates a better fit than any grafting with other bone, the standard procedure currently. The results were almost too good to be true. The regenerated bone was better quality compared to grafted, the new bone growth stayed in the area of the defect, healing was faster, and there was no scar tissue between the old and new bone.
Unfortunately for me, this has no bearing on my current situation. The researchers are a long way from human trials and they are looking at repairing problem areas in bones not regrowing entirely new bones but the fact that mixing the protein that has been derived from the patient’s tissue with the scaffold medium resulted in such positive results gives me hope that the technology and procedure will continue to be studied and its uses expanded into other areas.