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Stem cell technique regrows joints

29th July 2010

Researchers in the US have developed a way of using people's own stem cells to regrow bones and joints.

stem cell

The discovery of the new method is a scientific breakthrough, and the scientists are claiming to have achieved a complete success with their test-run of the technique in 10 live rabbits.

Lead researcher Jeremy Mao, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center, said that the process his team developed may eventually lead to clinical applications.

He said patients who needed knee, shoulder, hip or finger joint regeneration would benefit from the procedure, and that it was the first time stem cells had been used to completely regenerate an entire joint surface from scratch.

For the study, the researchers surgically removed the forelimb thigh joint of the rabbits, then implanted a 'scaffolding' for a new joint.

The scaffolding, composed of bio-organic substances, stimulated cell growth around the missing joint, working in tandem with stem cells to completely regrow the joint and cartilage.

The bone scaffold was porous, and filled with a growth stimulant known as transforming growth factor beta-3.

Originally, the researchers had planned to make artificial joints out of polycaprolactone,  hydroxyapatite, naturally-occurring substances known as 'biomaterial'.

Mao said that such biomaterials were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in regenerating bones.

The team then used lasers to make precise measurements of the shape of the bones themselves.

After four weeks of recovery time, the rabbits were able move again.

The researchers said that theirs was the first study in which joint regeneration actually happened inside the animal's body, using stem cells.

Mao said that regulations do not permit doctors to use these techniques immediately, however, even though the joints his team was able to produce would theoretically benefit people.

Since current medical techniques use drugs in order to help people with joint problems, the drugs themselves may interfere with the regeneration process.

Patrick Warnke of Australia's Bond University said that some patients, especially diabetic elderly people, would not have the same joint-regenerating capacity required for the procedure.

But current technology requires people who use metallic joints to undergo a second surgery at least once in their lives, to replace the old artificial joint, so the new technique would still benefit many.

Warnke said that, although the new study offered a promising insight into what might be on the horizon, scientists still disagreed about exactly which process regenerating joints should involve.

Professor Molly Stevens of Imperial College London said that the recent study used signalling techniques to tell stem cells in the body to grow tissue.

She said that growing large areas of tissue was an important goal for researchers.

Warnke said that there was no reason why companies should not begin testing the technique as an alternative to standard hip replacements.


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Article Information

Title: Stem cell technique regrows joints
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 15650
Date Added: 29th Jul 2010


BBC News
Birmingham Post

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