Stem cells offer new approach to bone repair

A national stem cell conference in the UK is providing plenty of fodder for anyone tracking the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells in healing bone and cartilage damage.

Richard Oreffo at Southampton University, for example, is creating a composite material from adult stem cells that can be used to mortar over the damage done to bones. And Alicia El Haj of Keele University is engaged in a 10-year trial that relies on stem cells to remedy damage to cartilage.

In a BBC report, El Haj also discusses how they are developing stem cells that can be guided to a particular point in the body in need of cartilage and bone repair with a magnet. In the process, mesenchymal cells are coated with magnetic particles and injected into the body. And scientists say the approach could eventually provide a big benefit for patients with arthritis as well as injuries.

"The ultimate aim is to repair cartilage and bone," says Professor El Haj. "We have been able to grow new bone in mice. Now we will look at whether we can repair damaged sites in goats." Human trials are slated to begin in about five years.

- read the report from the Financial Times
- check out the story from the BBC