A new technique allows production of anatomically correct, living bone using stem cells extracted from the patient's own fat
In order to grow the required new facial bone, the research team involved created a scaffold and bioreactor using images of a jaw defect. This scaffold was unique in that it was constructed of bone matrix, and enables bone growth without addition of growth factors. The team then isolated a patient's stem cells from a fat sample, and within 3 weeks they had a matching, living bone structure.
"We've been able to show, in a clinical-size porcine model of jaw repair, that this bone, grown in vitro and then implanted, can seamlessly regenerate a large defect while providing mechanical function. The need is huge, especially for congenital defects, trauma, and bone repair after cancer surgery. This is a very exciting step forward in improving regenerative medicine options for patients with craniofacial defects, and we hope to start clinical trials within a few years"
Curiously, when this new bone was implanted back into the recipient, it was gradually replaced by new bone growth within the body, suggesting the structure forms a kind of template - instructing the body to replenish the structure. Tests using the scaffold alone have not yielded this kind of effect.
The scientists are now working on another cartilage layer in their study of bone regeneration, in an effort to correct complex facial and cranial defects. The current technology is being advanced through clinical trials, and if you haven't heard of it already, the head researcher on the project, Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, is chief scientific officicer for innovative new biotech Epibone, which aims to bring this new technology to market.
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