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Stem cells from fatty tissue to treat bone disorders

A team of scientists in Belgium has found a way to repair bone damages with the help of stem cells derived from fatty tissue.

The result of the discovery has been relaunched by several medical magazines around the internet, including MedicalDaily.

According to the researchers, the method is completely non invasive and could represent a milestone in bone regeneration, other than being used to treat several different bone disorders.

The team at the Saint Luc university clinic hospital in Brussels have treated eleven patients, eight of them children, with fractures or bone defects that their bodies could not repair.

The technique involved the harvesting of stem cells from bone marrow at the top of the pelvis. Those cells were subsequently injected back into the patient’s body in order to repair the damaged bone.

The team removed a sugar cube sized piece of fatty tissue from the patient and this, in itself, could be considered a less invasive process than pushing a needle into the pelvis. Also, the researchers state that the “cube” has a 500 times higher stem cell concentration.

“It is complete bone tissue that we recreate in the bottle and therefore when we do transplants in a bone defect or a bone hole… You have a higher chance of bone formation”, explains Denis Dufrane, the centre’s coordinator, to Reuters television, and adds that the new materials looks more like plasticine than bone: thanks to that, it can be shaped and moulded to fill a fracture – more or less like a dentist’s filling in a cavity.

“Our hope is to propose this technology directly in emergency rooms to reconstitute bones when you have a trauma or something like that.”

It has to be pinpointed that one 13-year-old boy they treated had a fracture and disorder that prevented his body from repairing bones. Within 14 months of the treatment, the boy was able to play sports again.

Like many other recent discoveries, the result obtained by the Belgian team shows how stem cells could be used to become building blocks of new bone, signaling another treatment option for bone disorders like osteoporosis. Bone marrow stem cells are often used in treating rheumatoid arthritis as well as to assist in bone growth after graft transplantation.

The work has been published in Biomaterials journal and was presented at an annual meeting of the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science (IFATS) in New York in November.

Now, a spin-off called Novadip Biosciences is trying to find investors to commercialize the treatment which, at least in its initial phase, will allow spinal fusion among elderly people with degenerated discs.

Source image: Wikimedia.

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