Two-year-old Eva was struck by a car last year, but despite the best efforts of the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital, the injury failed to heal.
The vets were forced to remove bone tissue, as a result of a persistent infection. This left Eva with a 2cm gap at the top of her right foreleg that would not regenerate.
It was by chance that Eva’s vet, Mr William Marshall, learnt of the synthetic bone research being funded by Sir Bobby Robson’s charity, Find a Better Way.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow have been working to develop synthetically grown bone tissue for use by trauma surgeons for treating landmine or bomb victims since January. The project could help transform the quality of life of the thousands of civilians being injured by landmines every year in the future.
While the bone growth project is working on several technologies, Mr Marshall was particularly interested in one that encourages new bone tissue to grow where it would otherwise not naturally regenerate. The treatment uses an ingredient found in paint and nail polish called poly(ethyl acrylate) (PEA) which, researchers found, is perfect for holding a naturally occurring protein, BMP-2, in place.
Mr Marshall took a mixture of bone chips and coated them with PEA and BMP-2 before placing the mixture in the 2cm gap in Eva’s front leg. It was the first time PEA and BMP-2 had ever been used to treat anyone - dog or human - so no one could be sure it would work.
The treatment was a success and the bone grew back. Mr Marshall described it as a “best case scenario” and, several weeks later Eva is on the road to a full recovery.
Project leader Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez commented: “This is an exciting development. During research and development, the use of PEA and BMP-2 to grow new bone tissue has looked very promising, but I was not expecting the treatment to be used to help a patient for several more years.
“We are delighted to have had the chance to help save Eva’s leg from amputation. If I’m honest, we were not at all sure the treatment would work in such a complex infected fracture. It’s been a very rewarding experience for everyone involved.”
Mr William Marshall added: “Eva is an energetic and otherwise very healthy dog. Amputating her leg would have significantly affected the way that she walks and runs, but without the treatment provided by Manuel and his team, there would really have been no other option.
“We are delighted with the results, and are looking forward to developing the use of PEA and BMP-2 further in veterinary medicine.”