Bone fractures can be intensely painful, with people often resorting to stringent measures like painkillers. Certain ingredients in the diet can also be helpful in the journey towards healing quickly and effectively. If a new study is to be believed, a genetically modified lettuce may help in the process of healing a bone fracture. A new study has used the protein Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) to synthesise an orally delivered, shelf-stable medication grown in lettuce plants which could stimulate the growth of bone-building cells and promote bone regeneration.
The study has been published in the March issue of the journal Biomaterials. It has been conducted by researchers Henry Daniell and Shuying Yang from Penn's School of Dental Medicine. The team used certain methods to highly express the human version of IGF-1 in plant leaves. After growing the transgenic lettuce plants, they freeze-dried and powdered the leaves, confirming the product was shelf-stable for nearly three years.
This geneticallly-modified lettuce has wonderful implications for diabetic patients as well, who are prone to bone fracture more than the general public. Further, the process of healing takes longer in people who have diabetes. The existing drugs for diabetes patients requires a repetitive process of injections, which may have a high rate of patients not following through with the treatment. With the lettuce in place, it is simply to be taken orally and sees healing to be greatly accelerated.
"Fracture healing is a significant health issue, especially for patients with diabetes," says Yang, the paper's co-corresponding author. "They tend to have reduced bone repair and increased fracture risk, presenting a treatment challenge. Delivering this novel human IGF-1 though eating lettuce is effective, easily delivered, and an attractive option for patients. "Study co-author Henry Daniell adds, "We're hoping to find partners to advance this work as there are a lot of people with diabetes who could benefit from a therapy like this."