Scientists have been baffled, until recently, about why bones grow on injured muscles.
Researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have now found the mechanism behind the abnormal bone growth known as heterotopic ossification.
They found that a neuropeptide in the brain called 'Substance P', or SP, appears to trigger the formation of the extraskeletal bone, reports the Discovery News.
People may experience heterotopic ossification after recovering from injury or may have it from birth.
Though there is no way to prevent or know when a person will develop the condition, scientists now have a starting point to develop drugs that could help treat the problem.
Approximately 1 person out of every 2 million people worldwide is born with a permanent type of the condition called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), which causes muscles to consistently produce bone, especially when a person is injured or sick.
The researchers found high levels of SP, in both FOP patients and individuals who developed heterotopic ossification.
By studying 16 tissue samples from patients living with heterotopic ossification and FOP, they noticed a spike in the compound. They also compared the samples with four male controls.
In other experiments, they discovered that 'knocking' out the gene that produces SP in transgenic mice lowered their chances of acquiring the condition.
The study is published in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry.