Scientists have found a way to significantly speed up the healing of broken bones in mice.
The feat which, if replicated in humans, could mean people with fractures would be free of their casts a lot sooner, reports Nature.
In the study, Roel Nusse and his colleagues at Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, found that injecting mice with a family of proteins called Wnts - packed inside lipid bubbles, or liposomes - triggers new bone growth within a few days.
The finding has been published in Science Translational Medicine1.
Wnt proteins are known to stimulate bone formation and tissue regeneration, but scientists have not managed to turn them into drugs because the proteins are not very stable.
"It's a major technological advance, and the fact that Wnts promote bone regeneration is an important finding," says Gerard Karsenty, an expert in skeleton physiology at Columbia University in New York City. "They used a very clever way of delivering Wnts."