In vitro & in vivo assessment of a herbal formula used topically for bone fracture treatment

Li Hua Peng, Chun Hay Ko, Sum Wing Siu, Chi Man Koon, Gar Lee Yue, Wai Hing Cheng, Tai Wai Lau, Quan Bin Han, Ka Ming Ng, Kwok Pui Fung, Clara Bik San Lau, Ping Chung Leung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Aim of the study: A novel topical paste used for fracture healing (FH), consisting of the extracts of six herbs, Radix Dipsaci, Ramulus Sambucus Williamsii, Rhizoma Notoginseng, Flos Carthami, Rhizoma Rhei and Fructus Gardeniae, was developed according to the classical theory of traditional Chinese medicine. This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of this formula, and some of its important chemical components in the promotion of fracture healing. The transdermal transport of FH was also examined.

Materials and methods: The osteogenic, angiogenic and nitric oxide suppressing effects of FH and its important chemical marker components were assessed by using osteoblastosacroma UMR-106 cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and murine macrophage RAW264.7 cells, respectively. The bone healing effects of the FH paste and its transdermal absorption were determined using a rabbit fracture model. The callus sizes, bone specific alkaline phosphatase levels and biomechanical properties of the healed bone were assessed.

Results: FH significantly increased the cell proliferation in UMR-106 and HUVEC cells and inhibited the nitric oxide production in murine macrophage in dose-dependent manner. Its important chemical components asperosaponin VI, ginsenoside Rg1 and emodin were shown to be acting positively in the respective in vitro studies. FH paste significantly improved the bone healing in the rabbit fracture model, as was indicated by the increases in callus size at weeks 2–5, and the elevations in bone specific alkaline phosphatase activities at weeks 5–6. The analysis using LC/MS/MS also showed the presence of important chemical marker components of the FH formula in the plasma after 8 weeks of topical treatment.

Conclusion: This study presents the first scientific evidence of the efficacy of a herbal paste in the promotion of fracture healing. There were evidences of transdermal transport of the chemical components, control the inflammation through nitric oxide inhibition, promotion of angiogenesis, and bone healing in the in vitro tests, as well as in the experimental animal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-289
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery

User-Defined Keywords

  • Fracture healing
  • Herbal topical therapy
  • Rabbit closed fracture model
  • Transdermal absorption


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