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An infusion of a healthy donor’s unmodified stem cells might one day be used to prevent a type of osteoporosis caused by glucocorticoid therapy, according to a study published this month in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine. Osteoporosis is among the most significant side effects of glucocorticoid therapy, which is used for the management of inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.

A previous study by Lien, et al., showed the promise of gene-modified mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to relieve glucocorticoid therapy-induced osteoporosis (GIOP). Other studies involving unmodified MSCs did the same for osteoporosis not brought on by glucocorticoid drugs. This led researchers at the Fourth Military Medical University in Shaanxi, China, to wonder whether unmodified MSCs might be a therapy for GIOP, too. MSCs, adult stem cells traditionally found in the bone marrow, are attractive to researchers because they can be coaxed into differentiating into a variety of cell types.

“We hypothesized that it might prevent the reduction of bone mass and strength in GIOP through maintaining bone formation by inhabiting and functioning in recipient bone marrow,” said the study’s lead investigator, Yan Jin, M.D., Ph.D., of the university’s Center for Tissue Engineering.

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