Stem Cells Provided With a Map

Modified stem cells that could be extremely helpful in generating bone growth can now be “guided” through the blood stream directly to the bone. This is a potentially profound advance in the field of stem cell modification.

The research that led to this study, completed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and led by Dr. Robert Sackstein, worked on “a type of adult stem cell that is the precursor of bone forming cells called osteoblasts,” technically entitled human mesenchymal stem cells. Modifications were made to the surface of these stem cells that allowed them to be sent through the bloodstream to the bone, where they “matured” into new bone cells.

“Without genetically reprogramming a stem cell, which could cause adverse effects, we were able to navigate the cell to a predetermined location – a necessary first step towards achieving tissue regeneration,” said Dr. Sackstein.

The study was performed by first modifying the surface of the stem cells, then intravenously injecting the modified cells into mice. From there, the cells traveled to their predetermined location, where human bone was grown within the mouse bone.

The success of this study breeds great optimism for treating bone problems, such as osteoporosis, in the future, but Dr. Sackstein and colleagues believe the success will extend to other stem cell treatments as well:

“We are cautiously optimistic that our approach has utility for every application of stem-cell based therapeutics and in particular, for treating osteoporosis.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Brigham and Women’s Hospital News Release. January 14th 2008.