Bone Grown Using Common Household Chemical Saves Dog’s Leg

In January, scientists at the University of Glasgow began developing synthetically grown bone tissue for the purpose of helping landmine victims. The research is being funded by Find A Better Way, a U.K.-based nonprofit that works to improve the lives of people and communities affected by landmines.

Amazingly, just a few months into the study, bone tissue has been successfully grown in the very first patient. But it wasn’t a landmine victim – it was a dog named Eva who’d been hit by a car and was facing the amputation of her front leg after it failed to heal properly. Due to a persistent infection, bone tissue had to be removed from the top of her foreleg, leaving a 2-centimeter gap.

After William Marshall, the veterinarian treating the 2-year-old Munsterlander at the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital, had done all he could to save the dog’s leg, he contacted the researchers who were developing the synthetic bone tissue at the same university.

While 3D printing has been used to create prostheses that can save animals’ limbs, the synthetic bone growth capabilities being developed at the University of Glasgow are different. The researchers have been able to successfully grow bone tissue by coating actual bone chips with polyethyl acrylate (PEA), a common household chemical found in paint and nail polish, along with BMP-2, a naturally occurring protein that is known to cause bones to grow.

Earlier tests conducted at the university were not successful. When only BMP-2 was mixed with the bone chips, the protein would spread through the body instead of staying in one spot. This resulted in unwanted bones growing in other parts of the body.

The research project leaders, University of Glasgow professors Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez and Matt Dalby, discovered that adding PEA to the mix solved this problem by keeping the bone chips coated with BMP-2 in one place.

Eva’s veterinarian placed the mixture inside the gap in the dog’s leg. The bone tissue began to grow, and Eva’s leg was spared.

“Eva is an energetic and otherwise very healthy dog,” Marshall said. “We are delighted with the results, and are looking forward to developing the use of PEA and BMP-2 further in veterinary medicine.”

Sir Bobby Charlton, founder of Find A Better Way, was also very happy. “When I signed the funding agreement for this project just six months ago, I was not expecting there to be any results from this technology for years,” he said.

It will be about three more years before synthetically grown bone tissue is available for humans. Growing bone is more challenging than growing skin or muscle, according to Lou McGrath, the CEO of Find A Better Way. For landmine blast survivors, the extent to which a limb can be reconstructed depends on the amount of bone that can be salvaged.

“We are delighted with the unexpected opportunity this project had to save Eva’s leg, and we look forward to a future where anyone in need of new bone tissue, dog or human, can be treated,” McGrath said.

While this really does seem like an amazing breakthrough — not to mention really great news for Eva — it will also be amazing when the University of Glasgow stops using live animals for research. According to the university’s website, live animals are used only when no other alternatives are available. Yet in 2016, the university reported that over 55,500 procedures were performed on rabbits, cattle, sheep, pigs and amphibians.

“We are committed to replacing, refining and reducing our use of animals by taking advantage of new research methods and technology and using stem cells derived from adult humans,” the university states. Here’s hoping they stick to that commitment.

Photo credit: Snufkin

107 comments

heather g
heather g7 days ago

A great advance....

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE8 days ago

Wonderful.

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lily w
lily wells8 days ago

Amazing But im Kinda worried have a bad effect on her living.

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Debbie C
Debbie Crowe9 days ago

Wow - that's amazing!

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Liliana G
Liliana Garcia9 days ago

Nicole: Sorry. I think I explained myself clearly. No healthy organism should be sacrificed for organisms that are in trouble. I never concluded anything about bone chips. At what pt. live animals are used, whether for bone chips or for introducing chemicals mentioned or for any other procedure, I don't know. But the paragraph is very clear.
"While this really does seem like an amazing breakthrough — not to mention really great news for Eva — it will also be amazing when the University of Glasgow stops using live animals for research. According to the university’s website, live animals are used only when no other alternatives are available."

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Panchali Y
Panchali Yapa10 days ago

Thank you

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earthism info
earthism info10 days ago

good news

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Nicole H
Nicole H10 days ago

Sara Herrera : you'd rather have 1 arm, than knowing that 300,000 animals would have suffered for it. Well first of all you don't know how many animals, do you ?? Moreover, these 300,000 animals would not have been submitted to testing / suffering ONLY for you. It would be for millions and millions of people. Also not only for the U.S. war veterans, but for all the innocent victims who have been bombed by American toys !!!
2ndly, have you ever been with 1 arm and found out how "easy" it is to loose 1.
3rd : NO animal should ever suffer for testing in laboratories. I will put my question otherwise : suppose you have a newborn with a deadly disease and that she would live for 3 or 4 years at the most, suffering very severe pain daily, 24 hrs. You know that scientists are developing a medication against this disease, but that it still has to be tested on animals. But that there is a 95 % chance this medication would help your child. What will you do ???? ???
It's very easy to talk, talk, talk, without having been in such a delicate situation as knowing you will only have your child for 3 or 4 years. That's reality. I am AGAINST testing on animals in laboratories for all the junk they make, used in "beauty" business. How many animals have died to experiment on anti-aging cream, anti- wrinkling cream, lotions against hair loss, etc.. these are not life threatening diseases and not 1 single animal shou

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Nicole H
Nicole H10 days ago

Liliane Garcia : First of all I can not find in this article where the "bone chips" are coming from. So how do you conclude that healthy bone from "non human animals ??" is sacrificed ?? Unless you work in this laboratory and have seen that another dog was chopped of a leg, to use this for the making of bone chips ?? ??

Of course, everybody knows that each organism is unique. But this is also the case when we do heart, liver, kidney transplants etc.. And most operations are now successful, because first of all, they only transplant when there is a match between the donor and the receiver, and the patients have to take special medication to avoid that the new organ is not accepted by the body... May be this is also the case here ?? It is not in the article.

You think this procedure to be unethical ?? Sorry, but I do not understand why. And using prosthetics is NEVER the same as a "normal" limb. You can hide your prosthetic leg, or arm, but not your hand. Even when having a prosthetic arm or leg, you are very limited in the type of clothing you wear. Certainly for a woman, it is not an easy matter. And when you have a prosthetic leg, and you meet a friend with whom you would like to bond for the rest of your life and eventually have children, it is not that easy to tell him/her and to take it off before you can make love. Regretfully we live in a world that we all need to be perfect, and peop

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole H10 days ago

Of course, this is great news. As an animal lover - for all kind of animals - I am very happy that this dog's leg was saved and that she now will be able to run, jump and make long walks again, as before the accident.


However, I have 2 things that bother me somewhat : why can this procedure be applied to an animal already now and we, humans, have to wait for another 3 years - at the least - before this method will be made available to us. 2/ And when we finally reach this moment, in how far will Health Care refund part of the costs. I can imagine that in the first years they use this procedure, it will cost a FORTUNE. And how many people will be able to pay this ?? May be that war veterans in the U.S. or other countries will be refunded, although with the actual POTUS in the U.S.A., I think he will rather use this money for more military equipment and research. The human life is not worth a dollar to this man, so why should he ??

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