A team of researchers from Japan’s Osaka Metropolitan University is using a plasma irradiation treatment to expedite bone healing.

In the lab, researchers broke the legs of rats in two different ways. The first group of 24 rats had easy to heal fractures while a second group of 20 rats sustained fractures, dubbed non-union ones, wherein healing is typically prolonged if it happens at all.

An X-ray image of a control rat femur that has not properly healed (left) compared to a rat femur in its eighth week of plasma irradiation. Source: Osaka Metropolitan UniversityAn X-ray image of a control rat femur that has not properly healed (left) compared to a rat femur in its eighth week of plasma irradiation. Source: Osaka Metropolitan University

Some of those easy-to-heal fractures were irradiated with non-thermal atmospheric-pressure plasma, but the treatment did not offer that fracture group any measurable advantages in terms of expedited healing. However, the treatment reportedly boosted the healing and recovery time of rats with non-union fractures. Further, the team noted that the strength of the healed fractures of the irradiated non-union rats was roughly 3.5 times stronger than the healed fractures of the nonirradiated rats.

Additionally, the team discovered through an in vitro study of pre-osteoblastic cells that were irradiated with the plasma for 5 to 15 seconds that the activity of a protein that is an indicator of osteoblast differentiation increased, thereby suggesting that the maturation of these bone-forming cells was reportedly progressing.

An article detailing the team’s findings, “Fracture healing on non-union fracture model promoted by non-thermal atmospheric-pressure plasma,” appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com