Researchers have described a novel molecular pathway that may have a critical role in bone healing and have suggested that lithium, which affects this pathway, has the potential to improve fracture healing.
The study, led by Benjamin Alman from the Hospital For Sick Children, Toronto, investigated the role of the â-catenin signaling pathway, which activates T cell factor -dependent gene transcription, and which is known to have a key regulatory role in embryonic skeletal development.
By studying mice with fractures the researchers were able to show that â-catenin-mediated gene transcription was activated in both bone and cartilage formation during fracture repair.
These results show that that â-catenin functions differently at different stages of fracture repair. Although the relevance of this study to human fractures remains to be determined, activation of â-catenin by lithium treatment has the potential to improve fracture healing, but probably only when given in later phases of fracture healing.