The uncovered role of the central nervous system in bone healing
Scientists from the University of Hong Kong and Johns Hopkins University have discovered that the central nervous system can effectively modulate bone regeneration when stimulated by metal ions.
A collaborative research project led by Professor Kelvin Yeung Wai Kwok of the University of Hong Kong and Professor Cao Xu of Johns Hopkins University have recently discovered that the central nervous system can effectively modulate bone regeneration when metal ions such as magnesium ions, zinc ions, and copper ions are directly injected to the bony tissue. The findings, published in Nature Communications, show that the central nervous system can sense and respond to implanted biomaterials to regulate bone healing.
The research team found that when ion-releasing hydrogels were injected into mouse models with bone defects, the metal ions stimulated the production of inflammatory cytokines, which serve as inflammatory cues to activate the sensory nerves in bony tissue. When these sensory nerves pick up on the inflammatory cues, they convey the interoceptive signals to the central nervous system. These signals are processed in the brain and loop back to the injured bone for healing through the sympathetic nervous system.
This research team is the first to report the neuromodulatory role of metal ions on bone formation through skeletal interoception. Their findings offer us a new, cost-effective treatment strategy on challenging clinical cases, such as severe bone fractures, osteoporosis and heterotopic ossification.