Scientists at Harvard Medical School, Boston, have used fat cells and muscle tissue to regrow bone and cartilage in rodents and then implanted them at the location of the injury.
The researchers achieved the feat of converting muscle and fat cells into cartilage and then bone in rodents by using a special form of gene therapy.
It is hoped the technology could dramatically cut the amount of time patients have to spend in traction after breaking bones and could help improve recovery from cartilage damage such as occurs in knee injuries.
Tests in rats showed that the implanted muscle and fat rapidly caused a bridge to form between broken bones within days.
The bones were found to have returned to full strength within 8 weeks of the injury. It can typically take broken bones in humans several months to heal.
"Further development of these methods should provide ways to heal bone and cartilage more expeditiously, and at lower cost, that is presently possible," the Telegraph quoted Professor Chris Evans, from the centre for molecular orthopaedics at Harvard Medical School, as saying.
"Those receiving gene-activated muscle underwent rapid healing, with evidence of bridging as early as 10 days after implantation and restoration of full strength by eight weeks," he added.
Evans and his colleagues are due to present some of their findings at the European Cells and Materials Conference in Davos, Switzerland this week.
The study appears in the journal of European Cells and Materials.