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Smoking slows fractures from healing, Lincoln study shows

Smoking can slow down the process of recovering from bone fractures, according to new research from United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and the University of Lincoln.

The study indicates that the bone healing cells in non-smokers were of a superior quality, more active and quicker at dividing than those of smokers, which contributes to a faster healing process.

Some 50 fracture patients volunteered to allow blood from the area of the fracture to be analysed.

The blood was studied in a laboratory at the University of Lincoln to identify the differences in the quantity and quality of stem cells and molecules that are involved in bone regeneration following fracture.

Trauma and Orthopaedic Consultant at Lincoln County Hospital, Professor Mohammad Maqsood completed the first stages of research into how smoking affects the healing of fractures at cellular and molecular level.

Professor Mohammad Maqsood, Consultant of Trauma and Orthopaedic surgery at Lincoln County Hospital

Professor Maqsood said: “We set up the research looking at the factors which affect the healing process of fractures in 2007, which involved collecting the blood from consenting patients, both smokers and non-smokers, who have suffered tibial fractures and had been admitted to Lincoln County Hospital for surgery.

“We also set up a ‘smoking machine’ which simulates smoking 20 cigarettes per day to study the effects of smoking on the blood in a controlled environment.”

PhD researcher Andrew Sloan from the University of Lincoln said: “I was particularly interested in how stem cells can be extracted and isolated from human fracture tissue.

“I felt a real sense of achievement when we were able to do this, as only one group in the world had written about this methodology previously.”

The team presented the findings of this study across Britain and at conferences in Finland, France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

The next steps of the project will involve looking at how the adverse effect of smoking at cellular and molecular level can be reversed.