UCB - University of California Bone Regeneration

UCLA professors Kang Ting and Ben Wu are developing a new molecule they’ve named University of California Bone (UCB). This technology may be the most significant advance in bone regeneration in decades.

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) were first used by Dr. Marshall Urist at UCLA in the 1960s. UCB differs significantly from the protein currently used by orthopedic surgeons to aid in bone repair, in that UCB has potentially fewer side effects. With BMPs, bone formation has been observed to occur at locations outside of the intended implant site, and tissue other than bone also has been reported. UCB’s main effects appear to be more specific towards bone formation process, giving surgeons increased control over where bone forms.


(From New method to regrow human bones)

Dr. Wu points out that UCB is more specific because it works downstream from the body’s “master switch” for bone formation. Because the two molecules act on different targets, UCB also works synergistically with BMPs to form more bone than is typically possible with BMPs alone.

"For the average person, this new development potentially means faster, more reliable bone healing with fewer side effects at a lower cost," says Ting. "In more severe cases, such as in children born with congenital anomalies, the new protein may offer an advanced solution to repair cleft palates, which involves bone deficiencies, and also aid in repairing other bone defects such as fractures, spinal fusion and implant integration."

The research team is already working under the business name Bone Biologics; a partnership with the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF), the nation’s largest tissue bank, has resulted in a collaborative development agreement to provide customized tissue forms to support the delivery of UCB.

Although science fiction writers have been working with the idea of regrowing organs and repairing bodies since the 1960's (I'm thinking in particular of Frank Herbert's crechepod from The Godmakers), there is another example I can't resist.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry has the misfortune of having all of the bones in his right arm magically removed by the inept wizard Gilderoy Lockhart. Is it possible to regrow bones?

Madame Pomfrey wasn't at all pleased.

"You should have come straight to me!" she raged, holding up the sad, limp remainder of what, half an hour before, had been [Harry's] working arm. "I can mend bones in a second - but growing them back-"

"You will be able to, won't you?" said Harry desperately.

"I'll be able to, certainly, but itw ill be painful..."

Madame Pomfrey was holding a large bottle of something called Skele-Gro.

"You're in for a rough night," she said, pouring out a steaming beakerful and handing it to him. "Regrowing bones is a nasty business."

Now, I know what you're thinking. This is a science fiction (and science) site - where do I get off using a fantasy fiction example? Well, I figure that if sf Grandmaster Arthur C. Clarke is right about any sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic...

Read more at Researchers discover new method to grow human bones; you might be interested in this discussion of how patent law might be applied helpfully in Patent support aids researchers. Thanks also to Roland for getting the story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/24/2005)

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