I have blogged on BMP’s before. These drugs are very, very potent artificial growth factors that stimulate bone production. They are administered at very high doses in cases of low back fusion and have had links to cancer and nerve root irritation. The goal of using this drug with a low back fusion is to cause the bone placed in the fusion area to heal faster and better. However, now a MedPage Today story highlights that complications were withheld by the drug’s manufacturer and that BMP’s are associated with higher rates of male sterility. Why? The body uses very small amounts of these bone morphogenic proteins (BMP’s) to help modulate how it makes bone. In the 1990’s, researchers noted that giving huge doses of lab created BMP’s would cause more bone formation. When you put this ability to make new bone together with the fact that some low back fusion surgeries fail because of too little bone growth, it made some sense to add BMP’s to low back fusion surgeries. However, as soon as the drugs began to be used, we saw serious nerve root irritation syndromes in our patients receiving low back fusions. Since nerves would normally be no stranger to BMP’s as they occur naturally in the body, this meant that either the BMP’s being used were foreign (possible) or that the doses being used were way too much. As a result of treating these patients, it’s not surprising to us that using massive amounts of a lab created growth factor may cause other problems. When we first began thinking about the best ways to culture stem cells in 2005, we avoided these problems in our Regenexx-C stem cell injection procedure by staying away from the lab created growth factors. For example, in most all stem cell culture procedures, large amounts of artificial growth factors are used to help stimulate the cells to grow. However, we were able to avoid exposing our patients to these substances by using the naturally occurring growth factors from the patient’s own blood platelets. The upshot? If you have a low back fusion planned, want to avoid low back fusion side effects and are male yet to have kids, you may want to ask if BMP’s will be used and skip the heavy helping of pharma derived, lab created super goo.