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'Bone patching' stem cell treatments developed

14 April 2009
Appeared in BioNews 503

A team of scientists at Keele University are working on an injectable stem cell shot that will repair joints and bones anywhere in the body.

The research was presented at the UK National Stem Cell Network annual conference in Oxford. Professor Alicia El Haj and Professor John Dobson, both from Keele University, told the conference that they're working on stem cells that they say can be directed using targeted magnetic fields. Their research shows that once these cells are injected they can be guided to the desired location in the body and can start to 'patch up' bones and cartilage.

The jab would use the patient's own stem cells, which have been combined with magnetic nanoparticles in the lab. The particles are safe and routinely used in the US to give clearer results on MRI scans. The technique is patented by Magnacell and could be tested on humans within five years.

Professor Al Haj said: 'The ultimate aim is to repair cartilage and bone. We have been able to grow new bone in mice. Now we will look at whether we can repair damaged sites in goats. We should be able to move to human trials within five years'.

The aim of the work is to treat people affected by injuries and arthritis without invasive surgery.

Also reported at the conference was a study by researchers at the University of Southampton, who have treated four patients with bone cysts on their hips using stem cells.

The team, led by Professor Richard Oreffo, used a technique that combines the patient's own bone marrow stem cells with donor cells to repair the bones. Normally the cysts would be treated with metal plates and pins.

Professor Oreffo said: 'With a cyst it is like an apple that is rotten, you have got to core it out and fill that hole. What we do is impact that site with donor bone and the patient's own stem cells...creating what we call a 'living composite''.

60,000 people in the UK fracture their hip each year and the team say that within years their technique could be used to treat these cases.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Bone-repairing stem cell jab hope
BBC News Online |  6 April 2009
Patient's own stem cells to be used to patch up holes in bones
The Daily Telegraph |  6 April 2009
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