Fixing broken bones a growth industry

Posted: June 11, 2012 at 3:11 am

Scientists have paved the way for human bones to be replaced with new ones grown outside the body. Photo: iStockphoto

SCIENTISTS have grown human bone from stem cells in a laboratory, paving the way for patients to have broken bones repaired - or even replaced with new ones grown outside the body from their own cells.

Researchers started with stem cells taken from fat tissue. It took about a month to grow them into sections of fully formed living bone up to several centimetres long.

The first trial in patients is on course for later this year, by an Israeli biotechnology company that has been working with academics on the technology.

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Professor Avinoam Kadouri, head of the scientific advisory board for Bonus BioGroup, said: ''We use three-dimensional structures to fabricate the bone in the right shape and geometry. We can grow these bones outside the body and then transplant them to the patient.

''By scanning the damaged bone area, the implant should fit perfectly and merge with the surrounding tissue. There are no rejection problems as the cells come from the patient.''

The technology, developed with researchers at the Technion Institute of Research in Israel, uses three-dimensional scans of damaged bone to build a gel-like scaffold that matches the shape.

Stem cells, known as mesenchymal stem cells, that have the capacity to develop into many other types of body cell, are taken from a patient by liposuction and are then grown into living bone inside a ''bioreactor'' - a machine that provides the conditions to encourage the cells to develop into bone.

Animals have already successfully received bone transplants, but in the latest study, the scientists were able to insert almost 2.5 centimetres of laboratory-grown human bone into a rat's leg bone, where it successfully merged with the remaining animal bone.

Fixing broken bones a growth industry

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