British scientists are developing a technique to mend shattered bones and damaged cartilage using a patient's own stem cells from blood and bone marrow, BBC reported on Monday.
Scientists from the Edinburgh University are developing a "bioactive scaffold" to protect the stem cells and encourage them to grow into bone or cartilage when placed in the body, hoping the technique will be tested in patients within two years.
The scaffold consists of a fairly rigid mesh structure, coated or impregnated with a drug that helps the stem cells take hold, according to the scientists.
"A lot of research that has done before is working out what will drive the stem cells down the route to become a specific cell type. The next stage is trying to think of innovative ways to encourage them to do that in the body," Brendon Noble, who led the research, said.
Noble said they would initially look at mending cartilage injuries which do not tend to heal well or bone fractures caused by severe trauma such as motorbike accidents.
The key to success would be to get the "recipe" right for encouraging the stem cells to grow in what are effectively harsh environments, Noble said.
According to the scientists, besides using stem cells from bone marrow, they are working with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service to culture bone forming cells from blood, meaning the patient does not have to undergo surgery to harvest the cells.
Surgeons said it could help repair trauma injuries too severe to heal and the project at a cost of 1.4 million pounds (about 2.7million U.S. dollars could also eventually have an impact on treating conditions such as osteoarthritis.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2008)