Scientists have developed a safe and minimally-invasive procedure to heal broken bones that uses microbubbles and ultrasound.
The new two-step gene therapy method successfully treated non-healing fractures in pigs within eight weeks of treatment, said Maxim Bez from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
Researchers, including those from University of California in the US, placed a collagen scaffold at the site of the fracture to provide a welcoming niche for bone progenitor cells.
They then injected microbubbles mixed with genetic material for a bone growth factor.
Pulses of sound from an ultrasound wand promoted uptake of the growth factor DNA by cells which stimulated bone growth, researchers said.
Unlike other gene therapies that rely on viral vectors to deliver their cargo - which can cause the viruses to later promote cancer or set off lethal immune responses - the ultrasound and microbubbles did not trigger inflammation, and expression of the introduced gene was undetectable after 10 days, researchers said.
The technique was proven to be minimally invasive, safe, and promoted total bone healing, with comparable strength to current graft procedures.
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.