Rapid and reliable healing of critical size bone defects with genetically modified sheep muscle

F. Liu, E. Ferreira, R. M. Porter, V. Glatt, M. Schinhan, Z. Shen, M. A. Randolph, C. A. Kirker-Head, C. Wehling, M. S. Vrahas, C. H. Evans, J. W. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Large segmental defects in bone fail to heal and remain a clinical problem. Muscle is highly osteogenic, and preliminary data suggest that autologous muscle tissue expressing bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) efficiently heals critical size defects in rats. Translation into possible human clinical trials requires, inter alia, demonstration of efficacy in a large animal, such as the sheep. Scale-up is fraught with numerous biological, anatomical, mechanical and structural variables, which cannot be addressed systematically because of cost and other practical issues. For this reason, we developed a translational model enabling us to isolate the biological question of whether sheep muscle, transduced with adenovirus expressing BMP-2, could heal critical size defects in vivo. Initial experiments in athymic rats noted strong healing in only about one-third of animals because of unexpected immune responses to sheep antigens. For this reason, subsequent experiments were performed with Fischer rats under transient immunosuppression. Such experiments confirmed remarkably rapid and reliable healing of the defects in all rats, with bridging by 2 weeks and remodelling as early as 3-4 weeks, despite BMP-2 production only in nanogram quantities and persisting for only 1-3 weeks. By 8 weeks the healed defects contained well-organised new bone with advanced neo-cortication and abundant marrow. Bone mineral content and mechanical strength were close to normal values. These data demonstrate the utility of this model when adapting this technology for bone healing in sheep, as a prelude to human clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-131
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Cells and Materials
StatePublished - 2015


  • Adenovirus
  • Bone healing
  • Bone morphogenetic protein
  • Gene therapy
  • Immunosuppression
  • Muscle
  • Rat
  • Sheep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cell Biology


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