Reporting in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from Slovenia and the United States describe success at growing a “clinically sized, anatomically shaped, viable human bone graft” (“Engineering Anatomically Shaped Human Bone Grafts”).
The team chose to grow a temporomandibular joint because of its challenge.
The graft began with stem cells taken from the bone marrow of an adult human. The researchers then used a tissue scaffold to help the cells grow into a specific shape: part of the human jaw bone (specifically, the temporomandibular joint). The scaffold was based on digital images from a patient.
The team chose to grow a temporomandibular joint because of its challenge. “We thought the jawbone would be the most rigorous test of our technique,” said team leader Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic of Columbia University. “If you can make this, you can make any shape.” On the promise of the research, she noted, “The availability of personalized bone grafts engineered from the patient’s own stem cells would revolutionize the way we currently treat these defects.”
Last November we reported on the successful transplant of a windpipe that was grown from stem cells taken from the patient’s bone marrow. University of Bristol tissue engineering expert Anthony Hollander, one of the researchers behind that success, said of the latest breakthrough: “This is a lovely piece of tissue engineering which has produced bone with a high degree of accuracy in terms of shape.” He noted that work remains to be done, however. In particular, scientists hope to learn how to grow bone with a blood supply that can be integrated with the patient’s cardiovascular system after transplant.
In several editions of News to Note we have covered stem cell research and therapies that don’t compromise on morality by destroying human embryos to save it. In fact, we run across such news far more often than stories of breakthroughs with embryonic stem cells. The report in PNAS is another reminder that most (or nearly all) stem cell research bearing fruit requires no destruction of the lives of the unborn.
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