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Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs)

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Certain bone morphogenetic proteins, or BMPs, have been studied for decades because of their remarkable ability to heal bone and eliminate the need for bone graft harvesting from the hip. Approximately 20 BMPs have been discovered, but only six appear capable of initiating bone growth. Of these, rhBMP-2 has been studied more than any other BMP and is FDA approved for use in certain spinal and tibial surgeries.

Naturally occurring BMP is found within the bone itself; however, it is only available in small amounts. To provide clinically useful and reproducible amounts of isolated, human BMP, it cannot be economically extracted from donor bone and must be manufactured (genetically engineered).

The preferred method for manufacturing rhBMP-2 is by a process called recombination. Scientists isolated the gene for one protein (BMP-2) from the bone tissue and used well-established molecular biology techniques to create genetically engineered cells. These cells then produce large quantities of rhBMP-2. A similar process is used to manufacture other proteins, like insulin. The recombinant form of rhBMP-2 is identical to the natural form in both its chemistry and its ability to heal bone.

During surgery, rhBMP-2 is soaked onto a sponge that is designed to resorb, or disappear, over time. As the sponge dissolves, the rhBMP-2 stimulates the cells to produce new bone and ultimately, to heal. After a few weeks, the rhBMP-2 also goes away, but it has completed its task to initiate the normal bone healing process. In the spine, the BMP grows bone in the disc space to join or fuse the vertebrae and stabilize the spine. In certain tibial fractures, rhBMP-2 has been shown to help heal broken bones.

Bone Morphogenetic Proteins: rhBMP-2 At Work

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  • Published: December 07, 2005
  • Updated: October 14, 2008