Human Embryonic Stem Cells Used To Grow Bone Tissue

A New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) scientist has shown in new research that human embryonic stem cells can be used to grow bone tissue grafts for use in research and potential medical applications.

Dr. Darja Marolt, an investigator at the NYSCF, is the lead author of the study, which was published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

It is the first example of using bone cell progenitors derived from human embryonic stem cells to grow compact bone tissue in quantities large enough to repair centimeter-sized defects. When implanted in mice and studied over time, the implanted bone tissue supported blood vessel in-growth, and continued development of normal bone structure, without demonstrating any incidence of tumor growth.

This is a significant step forward in using pluripotent stem cells to repair and replace bone tissue in patients, noted the researchers.  Bone replacement therapies are relevant in treating patients with a variety of conditions, wounds, birth defects, or other traumatic injuries.

Dr. Marolt conducted this research as a post-doctoral NYSCF — Druckenmiller Fellow at Columbia University in the laboratory of Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic. Since conducting this work, Marolt has continued to build upon the research, developing bone grafts from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

IPS cells are similar to embryonic stem cells in that they can also give rise to nearly any type of cell in the body, but iPS cells are produced from adult cells and as such are individualized to each patient. Marolt hopes that by using iPS cells to engineer tissue, she can develop personalized bone grafts that will avoid immune rejection and other implant complications.

The New York Stem Cell Foundation conducts cutting-edge translational stem cell research in its laboratory in New York City and supports research by stem cell scientists at other leading institutions around the world.