Stem cell treatments for Osteoporosis

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Stem cell treatments for osteoporosis and complex bone injuries are an exciting alternative to surgery. The current treatment, whereby doctors remove bone from a healthy part of the patient’s body and transplant it in the damaged site, is not only painful but can result in secondary infection and long recovery times.

 

Bone is the second most commonly transplanted tissue in the world, behind blood transplants, and is used in many common procedures. The UK’s ageing population means bone graft demand is increasing due to conditions such as osteoporosis and hip fractures. Many experts believe stem cells will be the future of medicine because they can become any cell in the body depending on their environment. According to the National Osteoporosis Society, more than three million people in the UK are estimated to have osteoporosis, which causes around 500,000 broken bones every years. The disease typically develops slowly over several years and is linked to the stem cells in the bone turning to fat rather than bone – it is often nicknamed ‘fat of the bone.’

“British scientists are about to embark on the first human trials of a groundbreaking new therapy called ‘nanokicking’ which spurs stem cells into action by blasting them with low-frequency vibrations.” Reported The Telegraph newspaper in January 2019.
In 2016 Scottish scientists discovered that stem cells can be coaxed into becoming bone cells – known as osteoblasts – using low-frequency vibrations.

Researchers at the University of West Scotland and the University of Glasgow believe that the 1000Hz frequency mimics conditions experienced by natural bone in the body and induces stem cells to turn into bone in around 28 days, which can then be implanted. The scientists hope the same frequency could be used to encourage healing from within the body without the need for a transplant.
“It is well known that bone can only remain healthy when it is actively being loaded, hence why astronauts lose bone mass when in space.  So we believe that we are mimicking something that the cells experience in our bodies, however, the exact details are still being untangled,” said Professor Stuart Reid of the University of West Scotland.

Now scientists plan to test nanokicking on patients suffering from spinal injuries whose bones have deteriorated through lack of use. The experiments could mean that the technology could not only be used as a therapy for those who already suffer from the condition and also prevent those at risk from ever developing it. Fifteen volunteers from the National Spinal Injuries Unit based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow will be invited to take part in the project over the coming two years.

The project’s co-lead Dr Sylvie Coupaud, who has experience of rehabilitation interventions in patients with spinal cord injuries, said: “There is currently no effective approach to treating osteoporosis in these patients – it is diagnosed but not treated. “Working closely with the spinal injuries unit, we have already developed robust methods to identify the onset of osteoporosis within weeks of injury, and we are now looking forward to producing effective interventions for patients, to slow the bone loss before a fracture occurs.” “If we get positive results then there will be an immediate scale-up of the project and we will see how we can roll this out for the benefit of the wider population.” The technique could also help people with complicated bone fractures, where currently the only option is to undergo painful surgery where doctors remove bone from a healthy part of their body and transplant it in the damaged site. The first clinical trial of surgical bone grafts, grown in the lab from stem cells, will be implanted into patients in Scotland by late 2020. The new trial has been funded by the government’s Science Technology and Funding Council. Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Osteoporosis can be a devastating condition for the three million people that suffer from it across the UK. This research shows enormous promise of slowing down and even reversing the disease. “The Government’s modern Industrial Strategy aims to harness medical innovations to help people have the most advanced treatment and meet the needs of our ageing society.”

Sources

Trial launched to cure osteoporosis Revolutionary new treatment for osteoporosis NHS: Osteoporosis    

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