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Study Reveals How Newborn Mice Spontaneously Repair Bone Fractures

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New research carried out in the United States could help improve future treatment of bone fractures.

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown mechanism involving bone growth and muscle contraction which helps a fractured arm bone in newborn mice to rapidly realign.

According to the scientists, their findings shed new light on how human infants and other young vertebrates may repair broken bones and might pave the way for more effective treatment strategies.

While spontaneous regeneration occurs in infants, adults require interventions to return fractured bones to a straight position, as well as stabilisation with metallic hardware or a cast. The research team wanted to gain a deeper understanding of natural regeneration in infants in order to help improve interventions for fractured bones in adults.

By observing newborn mice with a fractured arm bone, the researchers found that the bone rapidly realigned through substantial movement of bone fragments rather than through bone remodeling – a slower process which involves the simultaneous formation of new bone on one side and erosion of existing bone on the opposite side.

“This finding challenges the traditional view of fracture healing and introduces an entirely new stage of bone repair to the classical four-stage model,” said senior study author Elazar Zelzer of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

According to the research paper, this realignment process was driven by bone growth, which acted like a mechanical jack to generate the opposing forces required to straighten the two bone fragments. It was also found that muscle force is important in the repair process, as blocking muscle contraction disrupted growth plate formation.

Zelzer hopes that incorporating this new knowledge into the current approach will improve future treatment.

“For example, treatment protocols may include age-based protocols and shorter periods of rigid immobilisation to allow participation of muscle force in the healing process,” he said.