To help people suffering from a wide array of injuries and degenerative diseases, scientists and bioengineers have long dreamed of creating new joints and organs using human stem cells. A major hurdle on the path to achieving this dream has been finding ways to steer stem cells into differentiating into all of the various types of cells needed to build these replacement parts in a fast, efficient manner.
Now, an NIH-funded team of researchers has reported important progress on this front. The researchers have identified for the first time the precise biochemical signals needed to spur human embryonic stem cells to produce 12 key types of cells, and to do so rapidly. With these biochemical “recipes” in hand, researchers say they should be able to generate pure populations of replacement cells in a matter of days, rather than the weeks or even months it currently takes. In fact, they have already demonstrated that their high-efficiency approach can be used to produce potentially therapeutic amounts of human bone, cartilage, and heart tissue within a very short time frame.
Tags: bioengineering, Bone, cartilage, development, embryonic stem cell, heart cells, human embryonic stem cell, mesoderm, muscle cells, regenerative medicine, replacement tissue, RNA sequencing, scoliosis, stem cell differentiation, stem cells, tissue engineering
Bones are one of our body’s never-ending remodeling projects. Specialized cells, called osteoclasts, are constantly attaching to old bone and breaking it down, using acids to dissolve the calcium. In the wake of this demolition, bone-building cells, called osteoblasts, move in and deposit new minerals to patch and remodel the bone, maintaining its strength and durability.
Normally, these two types of cells strike a delicate balance between bone destruction and formation. But if this balance goes awry, it can lead to trouble. With osteoporosis, for example, bone removal exceeds formation, yielding progressively weaker bones that are prone to fracture.
Hip, knee, and shoulder joints get worn over time, or damaged by disease or injury. They often require replacement because they cause pain and inhibit movement. Orthopedic surgeons perform more than 1 million joint replacements each year. The worn bone is replaced with plastic or metal implants and cemented in place. The surgery can provide immense relief and restore mobility. But sometimes these implants don’t integrate well with the bone, and ultimately they break free. Replacement surgeries are costly, increase the risk of infection, and are a major challenge for the patient to endure. But recently an NIH-funded team of chemical engineers at MIT developed a special coating for implants that promotes a stronger connection to new bone. (more…)