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New targeted therapy speeds up femur fracture healing time

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US researchers have developed a novel bone anabolic agent that, when injected, reduces femur fracture healing time by as much as 60% without impacting the surrounding healthy tissue.

A femur fracture is an injury to the thigh bone usually caused by trauma. It can take several months to heal completely.

Researchers from Purdue University designed a new chemical entity that employs a targeted peptide attached to dasatinib, an anti-cancer drug that has been shown to promote the growth of new bones.

Following systemic injection, the dasatinib-aspartate10 conjugate (DAC) concentrates on the fracture surface, resulting in accelerated repair and increased bone density. Data from a study using mice shows that the healing process that typically takes eight weeks for full recovery of mechanical strength is reduced to three to four weeks when treated with the targeted drug.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry and were presented at the 2018 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) PharmSci 360 Meeting.

Currently, the only drug available to accelerate the healing process must be applied directly onto the fracture surface during surgery. However, not all breaks require such intervention, AAPS explained.

“We foresee a significant need for this type of therapy,” said presenting author Mingding Wang from Purdue University. “Even though many broken bones don’t need surgery, most require a prolonged healing process that can lead to morbidity, loss of work productivity, and in some cases even death. By developing a therapy that can accelerate bone fracture repair without damaging healthy bones or tissues, we can hopefully address these critical issues.”

The study found that treatment with DAC every other day for three weeks led to a 114% increase in bone density. While administration of non-targeted dasatinib provided some improvement in healing rate, DAC was dramatically better, doubling the bone density, the researchers found.

Philip Low, principal investigator and Presidential Scholar for Drug Discovery at the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery, commented: “While the use of casts, rods, or pins may still be required in some cases, the ability of this therapy to accelerate the return of a fracture patient to normal function and lifestyle could have widespread benefits to the entire orthopaedic community.”

Next, the researchers will look to establish proof of efficacy in other fractures, including long bone fractures, hip fractures, nonunion fractures, spinal fusions and craniofacial fractures.