London: A ground-breaking stem cell treatment in which lost tissues can be created from fat cells has been hailed by scientists as “a new dawn” in regenerative medicine.
The technique, which was initially used to produce bone, could eliminate the need for painful and sometimes damaging bone grafts, helping patients needing spinal surgery or victims of the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.
The breakthrough will be especially welcomed by two members of the Royal Family of UK, the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla and Princess Eugenie.
Camilla, who lost her mother and grandmother to osteoporosis, is the president of the National Osteo- porosis Society while Eugenie is a supporter of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where as a child she had undergone surgery to stop her from developing a curved spine.
Experts have said that the new procedure can also be applied to produce other tissue, including heart, skin and cartilage.
It is hoped that the work, jointly carried out by Dr Bruno Peault, a stem cell specialist at Edinburgh University, and Professor Chia Soo, who specialises in reconstructive surgery at the University of California, will be tested on humans within two years.
“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, “ the Daily Express quoted Soo as saying.
“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,” he said.
The technique involves isolating the stem cells found in body fat that can form bone. These are then cultured to produce more stem cells which then are 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.
“Bone grafts, especially from the hip area, cause a lot of pain which can become long term,” Soo said.
“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,” he added.
The study has been published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.