In the clinical treatment of fractures, rhBMP-2 administration is associated with a well-established profile of side-effects, including osteolysis and ectopic bone formation, which are driven by pro-inflammatory processes triggered by the use of high doses. Immunomodulatory strategies could minimize the incidence of side-effects by enabling the use of lower, and safer, rhBMP-2 doses. This study investigated whether interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) can enhance the therapeutic efficacy of a low dose of rhBMP-2 in a weight-bearing femoral fracture healing model. Exogenous IL-1Ra, in combination with rhBMP-2, was delivered using a collagen-hydroxyapatite scaffold (CHA) to attenuate IL-1β produced in response to fracture. Femoral defects were treated with CHA scaffolds alone, or loaded with IL-1Ra (2.5 µg), rhBMP-2 (1 µg), IL-1Ra (2.5 µg) in combination with rhBMP-2 (1 µg). Bone healing was assessed over 14 weeks in comparison to control groups, empty defect, and a higher dose of rhBMP-2 (5 µg), which were recently demonstrated to lead to non-union, and successful bridging of the defect, respectively. The combination of IL-1Ra and rhBMP-2 led to significantly faster early bone formation, at both week 4 and 6, compared to a low dose of rhBMP-2 alone. By 14 weeks, the combination of IL-1Ra and a rhBMP-2 promoted full bridging of femurs, which were 3-fold more mechanically reliable compared to the femurs treated with a low dose of rhBMP-2 alone. Taken together, this study demonstrates that IL-1Ra can significantly enhance femoral bone healing when used in combination with a low dose of rhBMP-2. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Enabling the use of lower and safer doses of rhBMP-2, a potent inducer of bone formation, is of clinical relevance in orthopaedic medicine. In this study, the immunomodulatory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) was investigated for its capacity to enhance the therapeutic efficacy of rhBMP-2 when used at lower doses in a weight-bearing femoral fracture healing model. The combination of IL-1Ra and rhBMP-2 led to significantly faster early bone formation, and resulted in more mechanically reliable healed femurs, compared to a low dose of rhBMP-2 alone. This demonstrates for the first time in a rat long bone healing model that IL-1Ra can significantly enhance bone healing when used in combination with a low dose of rhBMP-2.
Keywords: Fracture healing; Immunomodulation; Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist; rhBMP-2.
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