Could adding a human gene to goat embryos lead to a bone replacement therapy for human reconstructive surgeries? Dr. Cameron Clokie, CEO of Induce Biologics Inc., thinks some day it will.
Dr. Clokie, who served as a Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Toronto until he retired from academics in 2017, is one of Canada’s leading experts in regenerative medicine. This discipline looks into the possibility of replacing muscle and skeletal tissue in the human body after it has been lost to accidents, surgeries, congenital conditions, etc.
Currently, musculoskeletal reconstruction ususally involves replacing small amounts of missing tissue in one part of the body with tissue removed from another part of the same person. In some cases on Bloomberg.com, tissue can be used from the donations of cadavers, but this process is difficult.
In the 1950s, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Marshall Urist, working at UCLA, discovered bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). BMP, along with other proteins found in human bone, forms the matrix that human bones grow from within. Dr. Urist passed away in 2001, but before he did, Dr. Clokie worked with him for four years.
Dr. Cameron Clokie, who holds or has pending 25 U.S. and international patents, has studied how BMP can be used to help the human body replace its own lost bone. He pioneered a technique in which BMP is added to a gel with a putty-like consistency that’s a liquid at cold temperatures and a solid in warm temperatures. This matrix is then used with the patient’s own bone cells to grow a piece of replacement bone that the body can’t reject.
The difficulty is in obtaining enough BMP to get the technique to work. Because it is found in the body in such small amounts, and cadaver sources have not yet been federally approved for this use, Dr. Clokie and his associates have to find a more sustainable, safe, and legal source.
Here’s where transgenic techniques come in. Dr. Cameron Clokie is studying the possibility of generating BMP by inserting the human gene responsible for producing it into goat embryos. Goat embryos have previously been used to create goats whose milk produces spider silk, which is then used in medical and industrial purposes. Dr. Clokie thinks goat milk could some day give doctors enough BMP to replace bones for musculoskeletal reconstructive surgeries.