A team of Israeli scientists have grown human bones in a laboratory using stem cells, paving the way for patients to have damaged or missing bones repaired or replaced with new ones, grown outside the body from the patient's own cells.
HAIFA, ISRAEL (RECENT) (REUTERS) - The novel technology, pioneered by Israeli biotechnology company Bonus Group, could ultimately allow doctors treat bone diseases and replace damaged bones without the risk of the body rejecting foreign replacements.
The technique uses three dimensional scans of the damaged bone to build a 3D scaffold that matches the needed shape.
Stem cells are then obtained from the patient's fat tissue using liposuction. The isolated stem cells have the capability to develop into many other types of body cells including bone cells.
The unique cell population is being grown into living human bone on the scaffold inside a bioreactor - an automated machine that provides the right conditions to encourage the bone-creating cell growth.
According to Bonus BioGroup CEO Dr Shai Meretzki, it usually takes around four weeks to grow fully formed living bone tissue.
He says that other research teams around the world have used different methods in which stem cells are injected into the patient, rather than growing them outside the body into live bone tissue ready for transplant.
"Many people have successfully grown cells from human bone cells within the lab. But we, for the first time we are able to grow those cells in three dimensional culture on the precise needed shape and size and from the patient's own cells. So we don't have any rejection, the cells are coming from the patient, growing in vitro (outside the body) and getting back to him, we have no rejection and we have bones that were grown like 'tailor suit' to the patient," Meretzki said.
The first human trial is expected to start within the coming year. The company has already successfully conducted human bone transplants in animal models.
The company's scientists said they inserted a laboratory-grown human bone into the middle section of a rat's leg bone, where it successfully merged with the remaining animal bone.
Meretzki says the work is also under way to grow cartilage tissue which is required to treat joint disease and to grow entire bones.
"Actually what we're dealing with is a complete new field of regenerative medicine. And we will be able to change a complete body part, organ and later on even more complicated tissues. Now we are starting with bone...what is relatively a simple tissue but we'll get to more complicated ones," Meretzki said.
Initially, the technology will be geared towards replacing bones smashed in accidents, or to fill in defects where bones are missing such as cleft palate, or carry out reconstructive plastic surgery
Meretzki estimates that before long Bonus BioGroup's method will be used as a popular medical treatment for patients around the world.
Doctor Ephraim Tzur, the head of the maxillofacial and plastic surgery department in Assaf Harofeh medical centre, has been treating patients with bone impairments throughout his professional career. He describes Bonus BioGroup's method as "revolutionary".
"The most important thing in this innovative method is that you do not carry on two operations in one man. You can build the bone outside of the body in the shape and in the architecture and even in the strength that is needed and you take it as copy-paste to the needed area. This is revolutionary, I think," Tzur said.
Tzur says bone graft treatment currently involves two risky and complicated procedures. The first procedure is harvesting the required bone from elsewhere in the patient's body and the second procedure is transplanting the harvested bone to the damaged area. Those procedures require the patient to undergo two traumatic operations which involve long periods of healing.
Bonus BioGroup's method solves both issues, Tzur says. It involves only one operation and significantly minimises the odds of rejection, since the bone creating cells are taken from the patient's own tissue.
Tzur says that many patients will benefit from the new solution. He added that he is planning to conduct trials of Bonus Biogroup's method in some of his patients.
"I think there are so many patients, they need this message, this new method which already become to reality, not only for all those medical reasons but also for quality of life, for recovery of face and masticulation needs. People without teeth - you lose you quality of life," he said, adding that the method can also help short-stature people who wish to lengthen their bones.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic surgeons, musculoskeletal disorders (muscle, bones, joints, tendons etc.) are the most frequently reported impairments in the United States. More than 100 million Americans have musculoskeletal conditions with limitations of function that are chronic and permanent.