"What is surprising and encouraging about this research is that we can now use this particular molecule to signal cells and enhance bone growth within the body," said co-author Dr Alvaro Mata from QMUL's School of Engineering and Materials Science and the Institute of Bioengineering.
Publishing in the journal Biomaterials
, the team created bioactive membranes made from segments of different proteins to show which protein in particular played the crucial role. They demonstrated the bone stimulating effect in a rat model, and used analytical techniques to visualise and measure the newly formed calcified tissue.
Co-author Dr Esther Tejeda-Montes, also at QMUL's School of Engineering and Materials Science said: "The benefit of creating a membrane of proteins using these molecules means it can be both bioactive and easily handled to apply over injured areas in the bone."
Dr Mata added: "Our work enables the possibility to create robust synthetic bone grafts that can be tuned to stimulate the natural regenerative process, which is limited in most synthetic bone graft alternatives."