Vibrations Can Coax Stem Cells To Become Bone

Applying low frequency vibrations to stem cells can induce bone formation

Osteoporosis is a significant challenge when it comes to keeping an elderly population healthy. Transplants are typically used after complicated breaks, but this is a far from optimal solution to the problem. While avoiding osteoporosis altogether is of course the primary goal, finding new ways to create custom bone in the laboratory has therapeutic potential too. 

Enter 'nanokicking'

 Scientists in Scotland have discovered that applying 1000Hz frequency to stem cells can coax stem cells into becoming osteoblasts; creating new bone in just 28 days. This procedure is called nanokicking, and is believed to mimic the natural environment within bone. 

“Our bodies are continuously experiencing mechanical stimuli, such as from our walking steps and our heart beat. We know that natural bone has some interesting mechanoelectrical properties, the piezoelectric effect - converting mechanical stress to electricity, which are optimal close to 1000Hz. It is also well known that bone can only remain healthy when it is actively being loaded, hence why astronauts lose bone mass when in space.  So we believe that we are mimicking something that the cells experience in our bodies, however the exact details are still being untangled”

The nanokick vibration system  Credit: Nanokick Technologies

Bone is an extremely common transplant, but while there are a number of strategies to grow custom bone from a patient's own cells, this is perhaps the simplest solution to date. While the scientists initially envision utilising the technique to form bone from a patient's own stem cells in a laboratory, it could eventually be adapted to encourage new bone formation from within - without the need of a transplant. 

Combining fields

The technology used to vibrate these stem cells gently shakes cells in petri dishes within a bioreactor. Curiously, this machine been adapted from the technology used by astrophysicists to monitor gravitational waves - making it an interdisciplinary breakthrough. 

“It’s amazing that technology developed to look for gravitational waves has a down-to-earth application in revolutionising bone treatments for cleaner, safer and more effective therapy. The scale of movement that triggers the cells to transform is so small it would be the same as ‘sliding a single sheet of paper in and out from under a football on a table”

Read more at The Telegraph