Fracture Repair Aided by Gelatin 'Microspheres' in Pilot Study

Japanese researchers have discovered that injecting specially designed "microspheres" containing basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) directly into the fetlock joints of horses with defects in their distal cannon bones results in enhanced bone regeneration and healing. The microspheres served as biodegradable drug carriers, designed to continuously release bFGF, which is known to enhance bone metabolism and induce vascularization and bone regeneration.

Current means of repairing fractures involve either internal fixation with plates and screw and/or external fixation with casts. Both of these techniques are dependent on the bone's natural ability to heal itself.

In the study by Naoki Sasaki, DVM, PhD, and colleagues from the department of veterinary surgery at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Hokkaido, Japan, a 4.5 mm hole was created vertically in the medial condyle of both cannon bones (third metacarpal bones) of six Thoroughbred horses. After closing the joints, they injected gelatin hydrogel microspheres containing bFGF into the right fetlock joint. The left fetlock joint was used as the control.

As hypothesized by the authors, bone healing was faster in the joints treated with the bFGF-impregnated microspheres compared to the control joints.

In light of these positive findings, further studies are warranted to more fully evaluate the clinical utility of this technique.

The study, "In vivo effects of intra-articular injection of gelatin hydrogel microspheres containing basic fibroblast growth factor on experimentally induced defects of the third metacarpal bones of horses," was published in the December 2008 edition of the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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