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31 May 2017


Engineers have reported developing biomimetic bone tissue that could help to revolutionise bone marrow transplants.

The bone-like implant has been engineered to address the problems that arise from pre-treatment in which patients are given doses of radiation, sometimes in combination with drugs, to kill off any existing stem cells in the patient's bone marrow.

While this procedure helps to improve the success rate of the transplant by clearing up space in the marrow, which enables donor cells to survive and grow, there are often harmful side effects, such as loss of fertility, nausea and fatigue.

Now a team at the University of California San Diego, USA, has now created biomimetic bone tissue that gives donor cells their own space to live and grow without competition, eliminating the need to wipe out the host's existing cells.

The researchers, led by bioengineering professor Shyni Varghese at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, developed bone tissues with functional bone marrow that are filled with donor cells and implanted under the skin of mice.

The donor cells survived for at least six months and supplied the mice with new blood cells.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month.

The researchers say the results are significant because they indicate that: the implanted marrow is functional; donor cells can grow and survive for long time periods in the presence of host cells; and that host and donor cells can travel between the implanted marrow and the host's circulating blood.

However, Prof Varghese said the implants would be limited to patients with non-malignant bone marrow diseases, where there aren't any cancerous cells that need to be eliminated.

'We're working on making this a platform to generate more bone marrow stem cells. That would have useful applications for cell transplantations in the clinic,' she added.


Source: Shih YR, Kang H, Rao Vet al. In vivo engineering of bone tissues with hematopoietic functions and mixed chimeris. PNAS May 2017. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1702576114


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