Using Keratin for Bone Regeneration

Justin Saul being presented the CEC Outstanding Research award

Your own hair could help regenerate the bones in your body—Well, sort of.

Keratin, a protein often found in your hair, skin, and nails, can be extracted from hair to create a hydrogel capsule able to deliver Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP-2), a molecule that promotes bone growth.

When it comes to regenerating tissue, there is no guidebook telling doctors and scientists what the optimal delivery time is to release these regenerative growth molecules. The keratin hydrogel can be engineered to release the BMP-2 at different rates, based on how much disulfide bond is present.

Dr. Justin Saul (CPB) was awarded a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct a four-year research experiment utilizing these compounds. He is in the last year of the project, entitled ‘Keratin Hydrogel Matrix for Tunable Growth Factor Delivery in Bone Regeneration.’

Dr. Saul was also presented with the CEC Outstanding Researcher Award at the divisional meeting in August for his contributions with this project. 

In total, Dr. Saul has worked with keratin proteins for this purpose for around eight years. Five graduate students and five undergraduate students from Miami have been able to conduct this research with him, some undergraduates even beginning their freshman year. 

This project is a test bed for building more complex delivery systems to be used on different tissues in the future.

Written by Sarah Mattina, student communications assistant