News Brief

Philadelphia — Research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine shows that a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) called Substance P appears to amplify the formation of the extraskeletal bone. Eliminating Substance P dramatically decreases the bone growth.

The discovery — in human and animal tissues — offers a molecular target for drugs to potentially prevent and treat the abnormal bone growth, which is called heterotopic ossification.

"This work establishes a common mechanism underlying nearly all forms of heterotopic ossification including that caused by brain and spinal cord injury, peripheral nerve injury, athletic injury, total hip replacement and FOP," said paper co-author Frederick Kaplan, MD, the Isaac & Rose Nassau Professor of Orthopaedic Molecular Medicine at Penn. "These novel findings usher in a new era in understanding of these complex disorders." FOP, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, is a rare genetic disease in which connective tissue turns to bone.

Lead author Lixin Kan, MD, PhD, research associate professor at Feinberg, found that Substance P is dramatically increased in newly damaged tissue of patients who have the more common heterotopic ossification as well as in FOP patients.

In the paper, published in the most recent online edition of The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, the researchers report that knocking-out Substance P ameliorated the development of the extraskeletal bone in an animal model.

The research was supported by the Center for Research in FOP and Related Disorders at Penn, The International FOP Association, The Isaac and Rose Nassau Professorship of Orthopaedic Molecular Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and other sources. Robert Pignolo, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine, and Eileen Shore, PhD, research professor of Orthopedics & Genetics, both from Penn, are also co-authors.

For more information, please read the news release.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

Share This Page: