17 June 2014

Human Bones from the Lab

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Bone defects, like a damaged femoral head, are usually replaced by metal implants. This has many disadvantages, but now scientists in Germany have created bone material from human stem cells that could bring significant improvement to the patient’s welfare.

Scientists in Würzburg, in Germany, have created living bone material from human stem cells in their laboratory. The discipline is called tissue engineering and the aim of the scientists is to produce the perfect substitute for bone transplantation.  

This new approach in bone regeneration may have the flavour of Frankenstein’s methods, but it has a lot of advantages compared to traditional materials used in operations like hip replacements. Currently, these bone defects are mainly replaced with metal implants, which usually last only for ten to fifteen years before they are worn out. Heike Walles, bio engineer and coordinator of the European research project VascuBone, believes that her method of combining human cells with scaffolds and bone substitutes could become a routine procedure in the future and provide a perfect alternative to the current best practices.

Thorsten Gehrke, medical director of Europe’s largest endocrinology clinic in Hamburg, is still skeptical whether human bones grown in the lab could provide enough replacement material, but he says that such material would be a blessing for every patient.

The results of the project are destined to be applied in clinical studies in a few years. 

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