Ummm, Your Bicep is Growing a Femur

Why no, Doctor, I do not need that thumb growing in my thigh.

Scientists have identified a neuropeptide called Substance P that can form bone in soft tissues outside of the skeleton.

I know, it sounds like science fiction, right? To me, it sounds like we’re a half-second away from growing Wolverine with a bunch of extra reinforcing bones spread throughout the body, or perhaps growing an extra hand or foot in somebody’s ass. Unfortunately, it’s not that cool.

But it still sounds really freaking weird.

Apparently there’s this condition known as heterotopic ossification, where traumatic injuries like falling off a bike or having surgery can result in their injured muscles spontaneously growing random masses of bones. Sure, it sounds cool, until you realize the pain and swelling that goes along with not being able to bend your elbow without a chunk of bone getting in the way.

Until recently, nobody understood the mechanism or why this happened. But now, senior author of the paper Jack Kessler from Northwestern University has identified Substance P, a neuropeptide in the brain that causes this condition in hundreds of thousands of people.

A neuropeptide is a small, protein-like molecule used by neurons to communicate with each other. And appparenlty Substance P tells muscles to grow friggin’ bones.

But if you knock out Substance P, the problem goes away. At least in test animals.

What I want to know is, if they activate a bunch more of Substance P just below my right arm, can I become better at ski-boxing?


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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2 Responses to Ummm, Your Bicep is Growing a Femur

  1. Avriel says:

    Can you tell me more about the role of Substance P in Heterotopic Bone Formation or tell me who might know more about this?

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