Growing Bone with the Biopatch at the University of Iowa

Growing Bone with the Biopatch at the University of Iowa


The University of Iowa always has some exciting
research happening on campus, and that includes the College of Pharmacy, where scientists
and researchers are developing the Biopatch. So… what exactly is a Biopatch? The Biopatch is a collagen matrix that is
loaded with pieces of DNA that encode for a protein that encourages bone formation when
cells take up take up the pieces of DNA and start producing that protein. Whoa.. wait a second… what exactly does
that mean? It’s a patch that helps regenerate bone. Did you say you were growing bone? That’s right, growing bone, and it’s really
cool! Alisager Salem and his team of researchers
are developing the Biopatch as a method to fill in areas of bone that are missing, due
to injury or deformation, and it has a variety of potential applications. It could be used for cleft palate, facial
reconstruction, fractures that are very significant; if you’ve been in a car accident and you’ve
got massive splinters that are too large to fix by themselves, in the military, for example,
if there’s shards that have caused damage, then this could be a way to quickly regenerate
the bone. The way the Biopatch works is a lot like a
Band-Aid, a Band-Aid that’s made of natural polymers — like the dissolvable stiches you
might get after surgery. The natural bone cells surrounding the Biopatch
will migrate onto the patch and start to multiple and come into contact with blank, synthetic
DNA, which is already loaded onto the patch. When cells come into contact with the blank
DNA, they are instructed and re-programmed to turn into bone cells, thus creating solid
bone. Eventually, the patch will break down, dissolve,
and disappear — leaving behind nothing but natural bone. And using the Biopatch is a
less intrusive way of dealing with bone injuries or deformations, which can be invasive and
painful. If you could reconstruct bone in a natural
way, and if you could make scaffolds in a natural shape of the defect that exists, you
could correct it without having to harvest bone or tissue from other sites. The project is a collaboration between the
College of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmaceutics and the College of Dentistry, led by periodontist
Satheesh Elangovan, who is interested in creating bony sites for dental implants. Drug delivery as one major focus, and what
we’re doing with this delivery system is delivering a drug, a drug that helps bone form, and we’re
providing a device that delivers that drug as well, which is pharmaceuticals. It’s delivery
of drugs. We’re working with the College of Dentistry to use that to form the new bone
and to show that bone is formed. It fits completely in to what you would consider a College of
Pharmacy to be interested in. While it is possible for bone to regenerate
naturally, it’s only possible in small defects. The Biopatch allows bone formation on larger
injuries or deformations, and while it’s still in the beginning stages of development, the
early results are looking good. In the models that we tested up until now,
we see after 4 weeks, very significant regeneration of bone, relative to untreated, where you
see no bone formation at all . As amazing as this research is and the potential
impact it could have in the medical and scientific community, none of the research would be possible
without the help of graduate students. Ali’s lab has 3 student research assistants working
on the project, including Sheetal D’Mello, who came to the University of Iowa because
of her interest in pharmaceutics and the interdisciplinary research involved with the Biopatch. I was really good in organic chemistry and
biology, so I thought the best combination would be pursuing pharmaceutics, and drug
delivery was very interesting, and the Biopatch is one of those projects of drug delivery. She was actively involved in constructing
and testing materials to make the patch. And after years of work and research, she’s excited
to see the early results. This is like a dream come true and more than
anything I’ve ever asked for. Well, I’m proud to say that I formulated the
Biopatch, working collaboratively with the College of Dentistry because we got a lot
of help from them. The fun part was to see that it was working. That made us feel really
glad and proud about what we were doing and motivated us further. Students get hands on research experience,
creating a potential new drug that will have the ability to regenerate bone. And Ali is
proud that he’s working with the next generation of scientists, who will be able to take this
new therapy to the next level. By taking a graduate student, having them
learn all the techniques, to do the development of the drug, the testing of the drug, looking
at the properties of the drug, to do the biological testing — we’re providing them with all the
skills so when we look at the next iteration of technology and the next advance in technology,
these graduate students from the University of Iowa, we’ll be well placed to make those
advancements and create the next generation of drugs and devices that improve therapies
for patients. And we’re doing that right here. That’s right… they’re creating bone in a
lab at the University of Iowa. Alisager and his team are leading the way, solving a problem
that is very personal to Ali. I have friends; very close friends, who have
children that have had clefts palate. I’ve had an interest in trying to pursue approaches
that might be able to reconstruct the bone that is missing in those type of cases without
having to do transplantation of tissue of bone from other sites, but to be able to reconstruct
it naturally. And if the early results are any indication,
Ali and his student researchers are heading in the right direction.

Author: Kevin Mason

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