April 15, 2009
Patients confined to wheelchairs have been able to walk or live independently again because their broken bones finally healed, thanks to a drug that stimulates their adult stem cells. Preliminary results presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society meeting found 93% of those with an unhealed bone fracture had significant healing and pain control after treatment for only 8 to 12 weeks. Half of the 145 patients studied had non-healing fractures for 6 months or longer. The drug, teriparatide (Forteo), was approved by the FDA in 2002 for treatment of osteoporosis. A team led by Dr. J. Edward Puzas at the University of Rochester Medical Center discovered that this drug can also boost the body's bone adult stem cell production to the point that adults' bones appear to heal at a rate typically seen for young kids.
Australian researchers reported similar success in 2008 at treating non-healing fractures, using the patient's adult stem cells. The U.S. team's results are the initial observations from a clinical trial led by Dr. Puzas. Out of an estimated 6 million fractures in the U.S. each year, approximately 5% show slow or incomplete healing, and a large portion of non-healing fractures occur in older adults. Discovery of this in-the-body adult stem cell therapy that can jumpstart the body's natural bone healing process will be a boon to many patients.