Scientists grow real human bones to track how they form

Last Updated: Thursday, December 10, 2009 - 00:00

Washington: Researchers have created a process that grows real human bone in tissue culture, which can be used to investigate how bones form and grow.

"We have manufactured a structure that has no synthetic components," said Mark Clarke, associate professor at the University of Houston`s (U-H) health and human performance department and principal study investigator.

"It`s all made by the two cell type bones start with inside the body. What you end up with is a piece of material that is identical to newly-formed, human, trabecular bone, including its mineral components, its histology and its growth factor content."

Being in a microgravity environment causes astronauts` bodies to lose more bone mineral than they can replace, which makes them vulnerable to fractures and breaks.

Even when they return to earth, the bone loss continues as their bodies slowly begin the process of replacing the bone mineral content.

The NASA-funded study, which included Clarke`s collaborators at NASA-Johnson Space Centre, Neal Pellis and Alamelu Sundaresan, used human osteoblasts and osteoclasts, the two major cell types involved in the formation of and breaking down of bone.

The 3-D bone constructs allowed for ideal conditions to investigate how bone forms and, more importantly, how bone is lost in environments such as space flight and conditions present in post-menopausal women and spinal cord patients.

Clarke has worked with NASA on other bone loss studies. He served as a principal investigator in a NASA study of micro-fabricated skin patches that collect sweat for analysis of biomarkers of bone loss, like calcium, a U-H release said.

His research on bone formation is proving to be market-ready, as a newly formed start-up, OsteoSphere, examines ways the breakthrough research can be used in a clinical setting for applications such as spinal fusions, facial reconstructions following bomb blasts or the re-growing of an individual bone outside of the patient.

"U-H has now licensed the technology to OsteoSphere Inc. which is looking at ways to commercialise the technology in a clinical setting, including culturing an individual`s own bone for subsequent transplantation back into the patient...," Clarke said.


First Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009 - 00:00

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