One-third of the world population will experience a bone fracture in their life-time and despite the ability of the bone tissue to self-regenerate, 10% of these injuries will not heal adequately requiring multiple reparative surgeries. When the lack of bone regeneration occurs it is classified as a ‘non-union’ fracture. No pharmacological treatment for non-union fractures is available on the market and this type of injury is particularly costly for the NHS.
In our lab we want to exploit the potential of Wnt signaling for promoting bone regeneration. The activation of the Wnt pathway is crucial for the formation of new bone tissue during fracture repair. However, this process is tightly regulated and the incorrect stimulation of the pathway during the different healing stages may result in inhibitory rather than stimulatory effects. For this reason it is fundamental to control the activation of the Wnt signaling pathway in both space and time.
In this context nanomedicine, and in particular the use of nanoparticles, has the potential to revolutionise the field of medicine. The nanoparticles we investigate in our group are small synthetic vesicles made of either lipids (liposomes, left picture) or polymers (polymersomes, right picture). They are ~750 times smaller than the width of a human hair (100 nm in size) and have the ability to carry high concentrations of pharmacological active molecules, such as Wnt agonists.
The great potential behind the use of nanoparticles resides in their ability to deliver active molecules to a specific target tissue, including bone fractures, limiting the possible off-site effects of any pharmacological approach. We believe that the use of nanoparticles could represent a cutting-edge approach to promote bone regeneration after fracture.