Faster repair for damaged bones
Stem cells can help repair severely damaged bones quickly, studies on sheep and humans have revealed.
Scientists use stem cells from the periosteum tissue, which lines the outside of all bones, to repair damaged bones. To repair major bone damage, scientists can now shape the stem cell layer into a ‘sleeve' which wraps around major bone breaks, where the stem cells develop into bone to mend the fracture. For those without enough periosteum tissue researchers have developed an artificial substitute using sheep.
The substitute is made of the same tissue stem cells but mixed with collagen, a protein. However results showed that sheep treated with periosteum-only stem cells had a faster repair (2-3 weeks) than the collagen mixed sleeve (4 weeks or more). An additional problem is that the stem cells may only turn into bone cells if given the correct cue such as stress from movement. Without the stress cue, stem cells may turn into tendons or cartilage instead.
The results seem tentitively positive in humans too. A patient received the stem cell treatment, experiencing new bone growth a month later. Severe injuries such as this normally could not be repaired without complex surgery. Traditionally, patients rely on bone grafts, where one piece of bone from a non weight bearing place such as the hip is taken and placed in the damaged area.
This new technique would offer faster and more effective treatments.
The results were presented at a meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society in New Orleans.