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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Bone Breakthrough

Published February 13, 2013 2:07 PM by Michael Jones

As Valentine’s Day looms just a few short hours away, singles everywhere have been busy focusing on their broken hearts. Meanwhile, across the pond, UK research teams have been thinking about broken bones -- investigating bone mending techniques with some interesting results. According to a Medical News Today article, researchers from the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh recently made a breakthrough in bone repair. Pun completely intended.

“Fractures and bone loss due to trauma or disease are a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem,” said Richard Oreffo, PhD, study co-author and University of Southampton Musculoskeletal Science Professor. “This collaboration between chemistry and medicine has identified unique candidate materials that support human bone stem cell growth and allow bone formation. Our collaborative strategy offers significant therapeutic implications.”

Led by Mark Bradley, PhD, study author and Chemistry Professor at the University of Edinburgh, the joint research team produced a degradable “polymer blend of three types of manmade and natural plastics,” which act as “scaffolding” for stem cells as the bone is regrown. According to the article, scientists used “solvent blending” to create a material that supports repair and disappears as it is replaced with bone tissue. The result of seven years of collaboration, the new material “allows blood to flow through it” while stem cells attach and begin growing new bone.

“We are confident that this material could soon be helping to improve the quality of life for patients with severe bone injuries,” noted Bradley. “And will help maintain the health of an aging population.”

As research continues to expand and develop, the practical applications of stem cells have been seen not only in the US, but in the rest of the world as well. Having already been through lab and animal testing, the bone “scaffolding” material is now ready for “human clinical testing.” Although, the study stands as a key development in bone repair, the potential for treatment using stem cell technology ranges well beyond the bone to any part of the body. Will human trials in bone mending usher in a new era for medicine? 

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