Stem cell implants can fix broken bones

London, Feb 10 (IANS) Researchers have pioneered a new technique combining bone stem cells with a degradable rigid material to encourage real bone to regrow.

The material developed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton is a honeycomb scaffold structure that allows blood to flow through it, enabling stem cells from the patient's bone marrow to attach to the material and grow new bone. The plastic slowly degrades as the implant is replaced by newly grown bone.

The material is a blend of three types of plastics found suitable after hundreds of combinations of plastics were tested, to identify a blend that was robust, lightweight, and able to support bone stem cells, the journal Advanced Functional Materials reports.

Successful results have been shown in the lab and in animal testing with the focus now moving towards human clinical evaluation, according to an Edinburgh and Southampton statement.

Richard Oreffo, professor of musculoskeletal science at Southampton, comments: "Fractures and bone loss due to trauma or disease are a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem."

Mark Bradley, professor from Edinburgh's School of Chemistry, adds: "We were able to make and look at hundreds of candidate materials and rapidly whittle these down to one which is strong enough to replace bone and is also a suitable surface upon which to grow new bone.

"We are confident that this material could soon be helping to improve the quality of life for patients with severe bone injuries, and will help maintain the health of an ageing population."

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