According to Science
, about 100,000 people a year suffer from non-union fractures. And that's just in the United States alone.
Non-union fractures is a case wherein a bone is so badly damaged that it can't heal without grafting other bone into the site. However, such bone grafts are expensive, would need more time to heal and might even lead to further complications.
"People are shocked when I tell them that the life expectancy with a non-union fracture is shorter than with pancreatic cancer. We're like horses. If we can't get up and walk again, then we're done," Edward Schwarz, a director of the University of Rochester's Center for Musculoskeletal Research, told The Verge.
Scientists and researchers have been looking for years for other ways to heal this type of fracture without using bone grafts. Fortunately, a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine may have shed light on a new (and better) method. All they needed is just an ultrasound, gene therapy, and a bit of bubbles.
Researchers first made 0.4 inch fractures in 18 minipig shins surgically. They then packed the wound with collagen, allowing bone-forming stem cells to grow. After that, they injected the bone with protein that contains microbubbles to trigger the stem cells into what they're after. Ultrasound wand is then used to burst the bubbles, consequently making temporary holes in the stem cells. This, in turn, allows the proteins to enter inside. And the results were amazing- the pig's shins healed completely just after eight weeks!
But then again, this method is still in its infancy. There is still much work to be done. Scientists need to do more research and to test it on different animals of different ages. Nonetheless, I'm hoping they would break a leg (figuratively)!