Stem cells used to create jaw bone13th October 2009
Using adult stem cells extracted from bone marrow, scientists from Columbia have replicated a complex part of the human jaw joint in a laboratory setting.
The stem cells were put into a mould made of tissue, which mimicked the shape of the human jaw bone.
Then they were fed with the same kind of nutrients developing bones are given by the body, using a specially designed machine.
It is the first laboratory creation of its kind, and the research team hopes their achievement will help treat sufferers of various bone conditions.
The bone scientists managed to grow from stem cells is known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Because the joint is structurally complicated, it is difficult for doctors to mend it using grafted bone tissue.
Many people are affected by TMJ problems due to injuries, rheumatism, or birth defects.
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, the lead researcher, said that the availability of personalised bone grafts engineered from the patient's own stem cells would revolutionise the way scientists currently treat such defects in the TMJ, as well as in other bones in the head and neck which are just as difficult to graft.
Vunjak-Novakovic said that her team thought the jawbone would be the most rigorous test of their new technique, and that any bone shape could feasibly be made using the same method.
Though the technique was not able to produce a bone with cartilage intact, Vunjak-Novakovic's team is currently working on a new method for bio-engineering them.
Another challenge facing scientists who work in this field will be that of connecting the engineered bone's blood supply to the patient's own.
Anthony Hollander of the University of Bristol said that one of the major problems facing scientists in the field of bone engineering is how to engineer a piece of bone with the right dimensions.
He said that the Columbia University team had produced bone with a high degree of accuracy in terms of shape.
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