London: For the first time, scientists have developed new bone from fresh and purified fat stem cells, a breakthrough which they say may one day eliminate the need for painful bone grafts that use material taken from the patient.
The new procedure, carried out on an animal model, is also hoped to be applied to produce other tissues, including heart, skin and cartilage, the researchers said.
"We are extremely excited. This is opening up a new dawn in personalised regenerative medicine in which people can isolate stem cells from their fat for repairing damaged bone, muscle, skin or cartilage. Lead researcher Prof Chia Soo from University of California was quoted as saying by the Sunday Express online.
"Fat has a large number of tissue-growing stem cells and most people have fat cells to spare. People could go for a liposuction as a cosmetic procedure and save their fat cells for future use, or they can use the fat cells immediately."
The new technique, published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, involves isolating the stem cells found in body fat that can form bone. These are then cultured to produce more stem cells which are then mixed with a growth factor to become bone stem cells.
A different growth factor would be used to produce other kinds of tissue. The bone stem cells could be implanted or injected into a damaged area of bone, avoiding the need for surgery, the researchers said.
It`s also expected that the procedure can be tested on humans within two years.
Prof Soo said: "Bone grafts, especially from the hip area, cause a lot of pain which can become long term.
"There are many other procedures where patients could benefit from fast and natural growth of tissue or bone such as spinal fusion operations or heart repair operations.
"Bone from other parts of the body is in limited supply and sometimes not of good quality. What we show here is a faster and better way to create bone."
The technique, the researchers said, could eliminate the need for painful and sometimes damaging bone grafts, helping patients needing spinal surgery or victims of the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.