Lettuce-grown protein may promote bone healing in diabetics

Lettuce-grown protein may promote bone healing in diabetics

Say you stumbled, fell and broke a bone. Your physician takes an X-ray, provides you with a cast, maybe some painkillers, recommends rest and … eating some lettuce?

Scientists hope someday a little plant power could go a long way toward helping fix what’s broken.

For those with diabetes, it is both easier to break a bone and harder to heal it. Now, a University of Pennsylvania study is setting the groundwork for a new way to deliver healing proteins in a way that is as convenient as it is cost-effective.

Treatment of a fracture in a patient with diabetes often calls for numerous injections of human insulin and hospital visits. Often, this discourages patients from adhering to the prescribed course of treatment.

Researchers sought to create something that was both affordable and easily accessible from home. They introduced to plant cells a specific protein that plays an essential role in the development and regeneration of muscle and bone. The plants then began to express that gene in their cells. Once the plant produces the protein in its leaves, people can use it for oral therapy.

Researchers then freeze-dried the plants to create a drug that could last for three years — unlike regular insulin, which requires precise temperatures for its cold storage.

Mice who received the leafy drug demonstrated an increase in the human insulin growth factor. Similarly, mice with diabetes indicated signs of improved healing and better bone volume and density.

Researchers hope to expand their work into diseases like osteoporosis and cancer. One thing’s for sure, this lettuce is far from the garden variety.

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