stem cells to promote bone healing

Researchers have developed a new technique that uses stem cells to help promote the healing of large bone defects by introducing mechanical forces to break sites.

Stem cells offer great potential for the advancement of medicine, treatment, and human health. Human stem cells can come from an embryo or an adult human. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells can be differentiated into specialized cell types, tissues, and organs.

In a new paper published in Science Translational Medicine, a group of researchers from at the University of Illinois and the University of Pennsylvania developed a new technique that can help bones heal faster by applying stem cells to break sites in order to promote bone regeneration.

Current bone implants show limited success in bone regeneration

Large bone defects caused by accident, disease, or tumour removal are debilitating. Although great efforts are being made using various growth factors and gene therapy, the repair of large gaps in long bones remains a major clinical challenge.

Currently, bone grafts are the main bone substitutes used to repair large bone defects. Because of their poor osteoinductivity, the host bone and surrounding soft tissue are often compromised.

Stem cells can help bones heal faster

Recently, researchers successfully demonstrated that the use of stem cells and flexible implants could help promote the healing of large breaks or defects. This technique allows the stem cells applied to break sites to experience mechanical stress like they do in developing embryos. These forces could help encourage stem cells to differentiate into cartilage and bone, and at the same time, encourage other cells in the bone to regenerate.

As a first step to determine how the mechanical forces present within bone defects affected the bone generation, the researchers delivered specially engineered stem cells to the rodents’ bone defect through a flexible fixator with adjustable pressures.

After four weeks of implantation, the researchers observed that there was enhanced healing and the bones had better mechanical performance compared with control rats that received traditional fixators. The applied loadings also help promote cartilage persistence, blood vessel formation, and bone regeneration. The research team is planning for further preclinical studies to determine how this technique can be used in clinical settings.

Written by Man-tik Choy, Ph.D


Reference: McDermott, A.M. et al. Recapitulating bone development through engineered mesenchymal condensations and mechanical cues for tissue regeneration. Science Translational Medicine, 2019;11(495):eaav7756. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aav7756 Article.

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