Bone or Cartilage Disease

Coding Dimension ID: 
279
Coding Dimension path name: 
Bone or Cartilage Disease

Clinical Development of an osteoinductive therapy to prevent osteoporosis-related fractures

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05368
Investigator: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$99 110
Disease Focus: 
Bone or Cartilage Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
There are over 1.5 million osteoporotic fractures annually in the USA alone, at a cost of approximately $15 billion each year. The majority of these fractures occur in the spine, followed by the hip and wrist. Incidence varies according to age; vertebral fracture rates increase rapidly by the sixth decade of life, whereas the risk of hip fracture rises markedly by the eighth decade and beyond. Current treatment is focused on prevention using osteoclast inhibitors, hormone therapy, diet and exercise. When a fracture occurs current therapies involve injection of cement into the vertebral body and/or open surgery with implants. Unfortunately, these procedures do not regenerate bone tissue, often fail and incur risks of leakage and emboli. The clinical and economic impact associated with these fractures is substantial. Following a fragility fracture, significant pain, disability, and deformity can ensue. If fracture union is not achieved, the patient may suffer long-term disability. This is exacerbated because there is a five-fold increase in the risk for sustaining a subsequent vertebral fracture and the odds that a neighboring vertebrae will fail within one year is >20%. We propose to add a noninvasive anabolic option to the treatment and prevention of osteoporotic fractures. This therapy utilizes a novel small molecule Wnt pathway activator that drives the endogenous stem cells in the bone compartment to differentiate into bone forming osteoblasts thereby increasing bone mass and reducing the risk of fracture. This therapy will be administered 1-2X/year by injection, eliminating the concerns over patient compliance and revolutionizing the treatment of vertebral and hip fractures in patients suffering from osteoporosis.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
There are over 25 million osteoporosis patients in the US alone, leading to 1.5 million osteoporotic fractures annually at a cost of approximately $17 billion per year. The lifetime incidence of fragility fractures secondary to osteoporosis in females over fifty years of age is approximately 1 in 2, and in males over the age of fifty, is 1 in 4. Osteoporosis-related vertebral compression fractures are the most common fragility fractures in the United States, accounting for more than 79% of the total. Approximately 70,000 OVCFs result in hospitalization each year with an average hospital stay per patient of 8 days. Current treatment is focused on prevention using osteoclast inhibitors, hormone therapy, diet and exercise. When a fracture occurs, current therapies involve injection of cement into the vertebral body and/or open surgery with implants. Unfortunately, these procedures do not regenerate bone tissue, often fail, incur risks of leakage and emboli, and suffer significant side effects. The clinical and economic impact associated with these fractures is substantial. Following a fragility fracture, significant pain, disability, and deformity can ensue. If fracture union is not achieved, the patient may suffer long-term disability. This is exacerbated because there is a five-fold increase in the risk for sustaining a subsequent vertebral fracture after the first fracture, and the odds that an adjacent vertebrae will fail within one year is >20%. We propose to add a noninvasive anabolic option to the treatment and prevention of osteoporotic fractures, with minimal to no side effects or systemic safety concerns. This therapy utilizes a novel small molecule Wnt pathway activator that drives the endogenous stem cells in the bone compartment to differentiate into bone forming cells, thereby increasing bone mass and reducing the risk of fracture. This therapy will be administered 1-4 times per year by injection, eliminating the concerns over patient compliance and revolutionizing the treatment of vertebral and hip fractures in patients suffering from osteoporosis. This will benefit the citizens of California by reducing hospitalization periods, operative costs and loss of workdays, and by improving quality of life for Californians with osteoporosis that are at risk for OVCFs.
Progress Report: 
  • This project is working to advance a first-in-class, small molecule Wnt pathway activator through IND-enabling and Phase I/II clinical studies for treatment of osteoporotic hip fractures. During this reporting period, quotes were solicited from drug manufacturing companies for the manufacture of the drug compound, a manufacturer was selected and the drug is presently in the GMP manufacturing process. In addition, international thought leaders were identified to act as clinical consultants and with their input the outline of a Phase I/II clinical trial plan was drafted and submitted to the FDA for comment. Beyond that, a pre-IND briefing document was prepared that described the clinical product’s known pharmacology, pharmacokinetic, toxicology and chemical characteristics. After preparing and submitting the clinical plan outline and pre-IND briefing document to the FDA, the team had a successful pre-IND meeting on January 30, 2012. IND filing is proposed for the first half of 2013. Currently, quotes have been requested for contract research organizations (CROs) who offer appropriate preclinical fracture model studies and a decision on the most suitable vendor for the study will be determined shortly.
  • In addition, the CIRM disease team application detailing known properties of the drug, along with a 4 year development plan and associated budget was drafted and completed during the reporting period.

Genetically Engineered Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Treatment of Vertebral Compression Fractures.

Funding Type: 
Disease Team Therapy Planning I
Grant Number: 
DR2-05288
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$109 743
Disease Focus: 
Bone or Cartilage Disease
oldStatus: 
Closed
Public Abstract: 
Osteoporosis is an unsolved and highly prevalent health care problem: 10 million Americans suffer from the disease, and an additional 34 million have low bone mass. Roughly half of all women and a fourth of all men older than 50 years will sustain an osteoporosis-related fracture at some time in their lives, and when such a fracture occurs, the chances of death within 12 months are about 1 in 5. Osteoporotic fractures can take several forms, but VCFs (vertebral compression fractures) occur at a rate of 700,000 per year—twice the rate of hip fractures. The economic burden of osteoporotic fractures is tremendous. In 2001, there were approximately 1.5 million osteoporosis-related fractures in the US at a cost of $17 billion, or approximately $47 million per day. Currently, treatment is focused primarily on prevention. When fractures occur in patients with osteoporosis, treatment options are limited because open surgery with implants often fails. Recently, new therapies involving injection of cement into the vertebral body were developed. Unfortunately, these procedures do not regenerate bone tissue, but do incur risks of leakage and emboli. Moreover,recent publications in leading scientific journal question the effectiveness of those procedures. Hence, we need new biological treatment that will promote repair of such fractures in a safe and efficient manner. We propose to develop a therapy that exploits MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells) that are genetically engineered to express a bone-inducing gene, bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2). Those cells have been shown to induce bone formation and fracture repair in numerous studies in animal models. Specifically, we intend to use allogeneic ("off the shelf") human MSCs. These cells will be genetically engineered with a BMP-2 gene using a technology based on short electric pulses. BMP-2 engineered MSCs have an advantage in bone repair since they become bone cells by themselves and recruit additional cells from the environment. This synergistic effect leads to accelerated and robust bone formation, which could be an attractive therapy for a variety of clinical conditions involving bone lose. An image-guided injection of BMP-2 engineered MSCs to a fractured vertebra could be an attractive treatment that would lead to rapid fracture repair and shortening of hospitalization time. We propose to use off-the-shelf MSCs that do not require the patient to undergo additional medical procedure such as bone marrow aspiration. In addition, the use of allogeneic cells is not limited by cell number, as could be the case for autologous cells, that are taken from the patient. If successful, this therapeutic strategy could revolutionize the treatment in osteoporsis patients, offering a minimal-invasive, biological solution. We plan to analyze aspects of efficiency and safety of the proposed therapy in a pre-clinical model, that will enable us to submit an approvable IND to the FDA by the end of the 4-year project.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Approximately 10 million people in the United States are diagnosed as osteoporotic, while an additional 34 million are classified as having low bone mass. The lifetime incidence of fragility fractures secondary to osteoporosis in females over fifty years of age is approximately 1 in 2, and in males over the age of fifty, is 1 in 4. Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) are the most common fragility fractures in the United States, accounting for approximately 700,000 injuries per year, twice the rate of hip fractures. Approximately 70,000 VCFs result in hospitalization each year with an average hospital stay per patient of 8 days. Fragility fractures due to osteoporosis also place a severe financial strain upon the health care industry. Estimates show there were approximately 1.5 million osteoporosis-related fractures in the United States in 2001, the care of which cost about $17 billion. Moreover, as the number of individuals over the age of fifty continues to increase, costs are predicted to rise to an estimated $60 billion a year by the year 2030. VCFs have previously received limited attention from the spine care community. This oversight may be a result of the perception that VCFs are benign, self-limited problems or that treatment options are limited. However, it has become clear that VCFs are associated with significant physiologic and functional impairment, even in patients not presenting for medical evaluation at the time of fracture. Current treatment of osteoporotic patients is mostly focused on prevention of VCFs. There are a few options of treatment when VCFs actually occur. Since open surgery involves morbidity and implant failure in the osteoporotic patient population, nonoperative management, including medications and bracing, is usually recommended for the vast majority of patients. Unfortunately, large numbers of patients report intractable pain and inability to return to activities. Currently there is no efficient biological solution for the treatment of VCFs. The proposed study will further develop a biological therapeutic solution that will accelerate repair of VCFs. The treatment will rely upon adult stem cell that are genetically engineered to overexpress an osteogenic gene, BMP-2, using a non-viral technique that is currently in clinical trials. It will also involve an injection of the cells into the fracture site, instead of a percutaneous injection of a polymer, which does not restore lost bone tissue. Data generated form this study could potentially revolutionize the treatment of vertebral fractures and other complex fractures in patients suffering from osteoporosis, and so benefit the citizens of California by reducing hospitalization periods, operative costs and loss of workdays, and by improving quality of life for Californians with osteoporosis that are at risk for VCFs.
Progress Report: 
  • Approximately 10 million people in the United States are diagnosed as osteoporotic, while an additional 34 million are classified as having low bone mass. The lifetime incidence of fragility fractures secondary to osteoporosis in females over the age of fifty years of age is approximately 1 in 2, and in males over the age of fifty, is 1 in 4. Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) are the most common fragility fractures in the United States, accounting for approximately 700,000 injuries per year, twice the rate of hip fractures. Approximately 70,000 VCFs result in hospitalization each year with an average hospital stay per patient of 8 days. There are limited options of treatment when VCFs occur. New, non-biological, methods have been developed to regain the biomechanical properties of a fractured vertebral body. These methods include the minimally invasive procedures of vertebroplasty and balloon tamp reduction. Both procedures involve injection of synthetic nonbiological material that does not resorb and instead remains a permanent foreign-body fixture in the spine. Ultimately, a biological solution that would promote rapid fracture healing and stimulate normal bone production would be the best for osteoporotic patients with vertebral column injuries. Our goal is to develop a novel therapy for VCFs, which will be based on adult stem cells, isolated from bone marrow samples. These cells will be "triggered" to form bone by the activation of a specific gene and then injected into the fractured vertebra leading to fast fracture repair. The funding from the planning award allowed us to establish a highly experienced team, from the academy and industry, that would be able to bring the proposed therapy to clinical use. In addition, we assembled a comprehensive development plan that described in detail the studies and steps required to obtain an approval from the FDA in order to begin clinical trials. Furthermore, we have negotiated and obtained commitment from several biotech companies, which will provide the necessary materials and facilities to perform the studies described in the development plan. Our proposal for a Disease Team Therapy Development Award was submitted in January 2012. If awarded, we will be beginning the pre - clinical studies in August 2012.

Skeletogenic Neural Crest Cells in Embryonic Development and Adult Regeneration of the Jaw

Funding Type: 
New Faculty II
Grant Number: 
RN2-00916
ICOC Funds Committed: 
$2 396 871
Disease Focus: 
Bone or Cartilage Disease
Trauma
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
oldStatus: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
The goal of this proposal is to develop cell-based therapies that lead to the better healing of traumatic head injuries. Our first strategy will be to use genetics and embryology in zebrafish to identify factors that can convert human embryonic stem cells into replacement skeleton for the head and face. Remarkably, the genes and mechanisms that control the development of the head are nearly identical between fish and man. As zebrafish develop rapidly and can be grown in large numbers, a growing number of researchers are using zebrafish to study how and when cells decide to make a specific type of tissue – such as muscle, neurons, and skeleton - in the vertebrate embryo. Recently, we have isolated two new zebrafish mutants that completely lack the head skeleton. By studying these mutants, we hope to identify the cellular origins and genes that make head skeletal precursors in the embryo. These genes will then be tested for their ability to drive human embryonic stem cells along a head skeletal lineage. Our second strategy will be to test whether a population of cells, similar to the one that makes the head skeleton in the embryo, exists in the adult face. We have found that adult zebrafish have the extraordinary ability to regenerate most of their lower jaw following amputation. In this proposal, we use sophisticated imaging and transgenic approaches to identify potential adult stem cells that can give rise to new head skeleton in response to injury. Traumatic injuries to the face are common, and treatment typically involves grafting skeleton from other parts of the patient to the injury site. Unfortunately, the amount of skeleton available for grafts is in short supply, and surgeries often result in facial disfigurement that causes psychological suffering for the patient for years to come. Here we propose two better treatments that would lead to more efficient healing and less scarring. The first treatment would be to differentiate human embryonic stem cells, a potentially limitless resource, into skeletal precursors that can be grafted into the head injury site. By understanding the common pathways by which head skeletal cells are specified in the zebrafish embryo and human embryonic stem cells, we will be able to generate skeletal replacement cells in large quantities in cell culture. The second treatment would be to stimulate adult stem cells already in the face to regenerate the injured head skeleton. If successful, our experiments on zebrafish jaw regeneration will allow us to devise strategies to augment the natural skeletal repair mechanisms of humans.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
Traumatic injuries to the head, such as those caused by car accidents and gunshot wounds, are commonly seen in emergency rooms throughout California. Current treatments for severe injuries of the head skeleton involve either grafting skeleton from another part of the body to the injury site or, in cases where there is not sufficient skeleton available for grafts, implanting metal plates. Although these operations save lives, they often result in facial disfigurement that causes psychological suffering for the patient for years to come. For this reason, there is enormous interest in cell-based skeletal replacement therapies that will heal the face without leaving disfiguring scars. Remarkably, the genes and mechanisms that control the development of the head are nearly identical between fish and man. Thus, we are using the zebrafish embryo to rapidly identify factors that can make head skeletal precursors, and then asking if these same factors can instruct human embryonic stem cells to form skeletal replacement cells. In addition, we have found that adult zebrafish have the extraordinary ability to regenerate most of their lower jaw following amputation, and we will use sophisticated imaging and transgenic approaches to identify potential adult stem cells that can regenerate the face. The successful completion of these experiments would allow us to both generate unlimited amounts of head skeletal precursors for facial repair and stimulate latent skeletal repair mechanisms. The combination of these approaches will lead to therapies that promote a more natural healing of the face, thus allowing Californians to eventually resume normal lives after catastrophic accidents.
Progress Report: 
  • A major aim of this grant is to investigate the developmental origin of the skeleton-forming cells in the head. An understanding of how these skeletal cells form in the embryo will aid in our long-term goal of producing skeletal replacement cells in culture and stimulating new skeleton to form after traumatic head injuries.
  • In the first year of this award, we have made a landmark discovery concerning how the skeletal-forming cells arise in the head. The head skeleton arises from an unusual cell population called the neural crest, which is characterized by its ability to form a very wide diversity of cell types in the embryo. We had previously described the isolation of two mutant lines of zebrafish that completely and specifically lack the head skeleton. We have now identified a mutation in a variant histone protein as the genetic basis for the lack of head skeleton in one of these lines. Histone proteins play a central role in not only wrapping our DNA but also controlling which genes are active in different cell types. Despite the fact that histones are expressed in every cell in the body, we have found that variant histones are uniquely required for neural crest cells to acquire skeleton-forming potential. In particular, our findings indicate that the head skeleton forms by a process of developmental reprogramming, in which precursor cells with a limited potential undergo large-scale changes in their DNA packaging such that they are able to form a much wider array of cell types.
  • Controlled cell reprogramming is becoming one of the most promising directions of regenerative medicine. For example, there is enormous therapeutic potential in being able to take cells from a patient, reprogram these cells back to a naïve state with defined factors, and then induce these cells to form replacement cells of any type that can be introduced back into the patient. Our discovery that the vertebrate embryo uses a similar process of reprogramming to generate head skeletal cells during development provides us an opportunity to better understand how reprogramming works at a molecular level. In addition, our finding that head skeletal cells form by developmental reprogramming suggests that adult patient-specific cells can be directly reprogrammed to form head skeletal precursors. Moreover, as the variant histone we have identified is identical at the protein level between zebrafish and humans, it is likely that the reprogramming process we have discovered operates in humans as well. Thus, in the coming years of this grant we are excited to develop methods of reprogramming adult patient-specific cells to a head skeletal fate, such that we can generate large quantities of replacement cells to repair the face and skull.
  • A major aim of this grant is to investigate the developmental origin of the skeleton-forming cells in the head. An understanding of how these skeletal cells form in the embryo will aid in our long-term goal of producing skeletal replacement cells in culture and stimulating new skeleton to form after traumatic head injuries.
  • In the second year of this award, we have extended our initial findings that variant histones play an essential role in the generation of head skeletal cells. Skeletal cells usually arise from a cell population called the mesoderm. However, in the head a unique population of ectoderm cells, which normally forms derivatives such as neurons and skin, has an added ability to form skeletal cells. How these cranial neural crest cells acquire this extra potential remains unclear. Here we show that variant histones function within the ectoderm to give cranial neural crest cells skeletal-forming ability. In addition, we have used biochemical analysis in a human cell line to demonstrate how mutations in a particular H3.3 type of variant histone disrupt the association of histones with DNA. Furthermore, we have developed tools which allow us to analyze how variant histone changes throughout the genome endow neural crest ectoderm cells with mesoderm-like skeletal-forming potential.
  • Variant histones have been implicated in cell reprogramming, whereby a mature cell regains the ability to form many more cells that can repair a damaged tissue. As we find that variant histones are required for reprogramming of the ectoderm to form neural crest during early development, we believe that we can use this pathway to convert patient-specific cells to neural crest and skeletal cells that can be used for facial repair. To test this, we have developed a mouse model in which we can detect the ability of neural crest genes to convert mature cells to neural crest and skeletal fates. In parallel, we have developed a model of jaw regeneration in zebrafish that will allow us to test whether adult cells within the animal can be reprogrammed to repair the skeleton in response to injury. During this period, the generation of transgenic tools has allowed us to begin to address which cell types can give rise to new skeleton in response to injury. In the coming years, we hope that our work in model systems will lead to therapies for head skeletal injuries on two fronts: the generation of large amount of head skeletal precursors from patient-specific cells and the induction of increased regenerative ability of cells within the patient.
  • A major aim of this grant is to investigate the developmental origin of the skeleton-forming cells in the head, as well as their ability to regenerate craniofacial skeleton in adults after injury. The head skeleton derives from a special population of cells, the neural crest, which has the remarkable ability to form not only neurons but also skeletal tissues. We have previously described that zebrafish with a mutant form of a variant histone H3.3 protein have very specific defects in the ability of neural crest cells to form skeleton. As histone H3.3 is a core component of the chromatin around which DNA is wrapped, our findings suggest a novel mechanism by which changes in chromatin structure endow the neural crest with the ability to form a wide array of derivatives. In the third year of this award, we have expanded our analysis to examine how the incorporation of histone H3.3 is regulated specifically in the neural crest population. Our data suggest that such H3.3 incorporation may depend on a novel chaperone protein as reducing the function of several known H3.3 chaperone proteins does not lead to specific neural crest or head skeletal defects. A clue to what regulates H3.3 activity comes from a second zebrafish mutant – called myx - that we are studying, which has head skeletal defects similar to what we see in our H3.3 mutant. We have mapped the myx mutant interval to a very small region that contains a putative H3.3 chaperone protein. We are currently establishing whether loss-of-function of this chaperone accounts for myx defects. Together, our studies of H3.3 and myx mutants will shed light on how to generate cells with the ability to form replacement head skeleton in patients. To this aim, we have also begun experiments to use our findings in zebrafish to directly convert mammalian cells (initially mouse but then in humans) to a neural crest and skeletal fate.
  • A parallel strategy that we are taking towards regenerative strategies for facial skeleton is to stimulate endogenous neural crest cells to make replacement skeleton. We have a limited ability to repair defects in our skeleton, for example after bone fracture. However, we have found that adult zebrafish have the remarkable ability to regenerate nearly their entire lower jaw following amputation. By studying why zebrafish regenerate facial skeleton to a much greater extent than humans, we hope to devise molecular strategies to augment skeletal repair/regeneration in patients. In particular, we have found that the zebrafish lower jaw bone regenerates through a cartilage intermediate, in contrast to the direct differentiation to bone during development. Hence, our findings indicate that bone regeneration in zebrafish is a cellularly distinct mechanism than bone development. Furthermore, we have found that the FGF signaling pathway is greatly upregulated during early jaw regeneration. FGF signaling also mediates the regeneration of the heart and other organs in zebrafish, and thus jaw regeneration may rely on a common regenerative program throughout the zebrafish. In the coming period, we plan to test the functional requirements of FGF signaling in mediating jaw regeneration, as well as identifying the stem cell populations that are the FGF-dependent source of new bone.
  • A major aim of this grant is to investigate the developmental origin of the skeleton-forming cells in the head, as well as their ability to regenerate craniofacial skeleton in adults after injury. The head skeleton derives from a special population of cells, the neural crest, which has the remarkable ability to form not only neurons but also skeletal tissues. In the previous grant cycle, we published a manuscript in PLoS Genetics describing the role of a variant histone H3.3 protein in controlling the ability of neural crest cells to form the head skeleton of zebrafish. As histone H3.3 is a core component of the chromatin around which DNA is wrapped, our findings suggest a novel mechanism by which changes in chromatin structure endow the neural crest with the ability to form a wide array of derivatives. In addition, we published a separate study in PLoS Genetics that showed a critical role of Twist1 in guiding these neural crest cells to make head skeleton at the expense of other cell types such as neurons. Together, our studies of H3.3 and Twist1 in zebrafish will shed light on how to generate cells with the ability to form replacement head skeleton in patients. In ongoing experiments, we are using principles from our zebrafish system to directly convert mammalian cells (initially in mouse but then in humans) to a neural crest and skeletal fate.
  • A parallel strategy that we are taking towards regenerative strategies for facial skeleton is to stimulate endogenous neural crest cells to make replacement skeleton. We have a limited ability to repair defects in our skeleton, for example after bone fracture. However, we have found that adult zebrafish have the remarkable ability to regenerate nearly their entire lower jaw following amputation. By studying why zebrafish regenerate facial skeleton to a much greater extent than humans, we hope to devise molecular strategies to augment skeletal repair/regeneration in patients. In particular, we have found that during zebrafish lower jawbone regeneration, an unusual cartilage intermediate is able to directly make replacement bone, which is in marked contrast to the way bone is made during development. Furthermore, we have found a potentially critical role of the Ihh signaling pathway in allowing regenerating cartilage cells to directly make replacement bone. In the coming period, we plan to test the functional requirements of Ihh signaling in mediating jaw regeneration, as well as identifying the cellular source of bone-producing cartilage cells during jaw regeneration. As similar bone-producing cartilage cells may also be present in human fractures, lessons learned from zebrafish may allow us to stimulate these cells and hence augment bone repair in patients.
  • A major aim of this grant is to investigate the developmental origin of the skeleton-forming cells in the head, as well as their ability to regenerate craniofacial skeleton in adults after injury. The head skeleton derives from a special population of cells, the neural crest, which has the remarkable ability to form not only neurons but also skeletal tissues. We had previously identified a unique role of histone replacement within the neural plate precursor cells that allows neural crest to make skeletal derivatives. In the current grant cycle, we now find that misexpression of groups of neural plate transcription factors is able to convert cells to a neural crest fate, and we are currently exploring whether this occurs by stimulating the histone replacement program we found to be so important for neural crest development. We are also testing whether similar neural plate transcription factors can convert mammalian cells to a neural crest fate, with the eventual goal to use this technique to generate an unlimited supply of patient-specific bone and cartilage replacement cells for skeletal repair.
  • A parallel strategy that we are taking towards regenerative strategies for facial skeleton is to stimulate endogenous neural crest cells to make replacement skeleton. While we have a limited ability to repair defects in our skeleton, for example after bone fracture, we have found that adult zebrafish have the remarkable ability to regenerate nearly their entire lower jawbone following amputation. By studying why zebrafish regenerate facial skeleton to a much greater extent than humans, we hope to devise molecular strategies to augment skeletal repair/regeneration in patients. In particular, we have found that during zebrafish lower jawbone regeneration, cartilage cells are able to change their fate to directly make replacement bone, which is in marked contrast to the way bone is made during development. We have also identified a critical role of the Ihh signaling pathway in bone regeneration and in particular the generation of the critical cartilage intermediate. In adults lacking the Ihha protein, no cartilage forms after jawbone amputation and the jawbone fails to heal properly. Moreover, in collaborative work we find that such bone-producing cartilage cells may also be present in a mammalian model of bone healing. We are therefore excited by the prospects of using similar bone-producing cartilage cells to repair large skeletal wounds in patients.

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