New treatments for osteoporosis and broken bones are in sight after groundbreaking research using ethical stem cells.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow and the University of the West of Scotland found that vibrating adult stem cells at low frequency results in them turning into bone cells, which can be implanted in a damaged area to aid repair.
Adult stem cells are an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cells, which involve the destruction of human embryos.
Currently patients have to undergo painful surgery to remove bone from one area of the body and implant it into another.
The Scottish scientists’ technique induces adult stem cells – from bone marrow or fat – to turn into bone in a laboratory, in a period of around 28 days.
Using this bone tissue could be less invasive and painful than a typical transplant, as it does not require operating first to remove bone.
The team also hope the vibrating technique used to create bone cells could be used to encourage healing within the body, without the need for surgery.
And there is a distinct advantage to using a patient’s own cells to build new bone; when it is implanted there is no risk of the body rejecting it.
Bone is one of the most commonly transplanted tissues in the world, second only to blood and is used in many procedures.
The team hopes that their lab-grown bone will be ready for testing within three years.
Last month stroke patients made a “remarkable recovery” in a trial that used adult stem cells.
People who had suffered strokes in the past received cells from two healthy donors, in the form of an injection into their brains.
As a consequence they regained the ability to walk and use their arms.
The success of adult stem cell techniques was also witnessed in March, in a trial which sought to regrow eye lenses.
The trial, published in scientific journal Nature, recorded that the eyesight of twelve babies was restored after stem cells repaired damage that had occurred as a result of congenital cataracts.
The condition means sight is blocked by a cloudy lens and is reportedly the most common cause of blindness in the world.
At present, babies who have the condition have artificial lenses inserted, but often still need to wear glasses or contact lenses.