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Jaw Bone Created From Stem Cells

October 12, 2009

Scientists announced recently that they have created a joint in the jaw from human adult stem cells, an advance which could revolutionize reconstructive surgery.

It is hoped the technique could be used not only to treat disorders of the specific joint, but more widely to correct problems with other bones too.

The bone which has been created in the lab is known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

Problems with this joint such as TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) can cause pain in the area of the jaw joint and can affect a person’s ability to speak, eat, chew, swallow, make facial expressions, and even breathe.

Although TMJD is widespread, treatment for this disorder can be difficult.

The joint has a complex structure which makes it difficult to repair by using grafts from bones elsewhere in the body.

“The availability of personalized bone grafts engineered from the patient’s own stem cells would revolutionize the way we currently treat these defects,” says lead researcher Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic.

She says the new technique could also be applied to other bones in the head and neck, including skull bones and cheek bones, which are similarly difficult to graft.

She stressed that the joint created in the lab was bone only, and did not include other tissue, such as cartilage. However, the Columbia team is working on a new method for engineering hybrid grafts including bone and cartilage.

Scientists believe another major challenge will be to find a way to engineer bone with a blood supply that can be easily connected to the blood supply of the host.

Professor Anthony Hollander, a tissue engineering expert from the University of Bristol, believes there is still a lot of work to be done before the new bone can be used on patients.

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