For the first time, scientists have successfully transformed unspecial British Scientists Grow Bone From Stem Cells, Could One Day Help Those With Osteoporosis | Bone Disease News | Imaginis - The Women's Health & Wellness Resource Network

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British Scientists Grow Bone From Stem Cells, Could One Day Help Those With Osteoporosis

For the first time, scientists have successfully transformed unspecialized embryo cells into bone, according to a presentation by British researchers at a symposium for stem cell research in London. Approximately 90% of the stem cells from a mouse embryo grew into bone within 21 days. The researchers hope to produce the same results with human embryos, which may eventually lead to improvements in treating patients with severe bone injuries or diseases, such as osteoporosis.

In the study, Lee Buttery of the Imperial College School of Medicine in London and his colleagues removed stem cells from a mouse embryo and grew the cells in their laboratory. Unspecialized stem cells develop a few days after an embryo is created and give rise to all of the body’s cells. Some stem cells are also present in adults, but researchers say these cells are not as flexible as unspecialized cells found in embryos.

To help the stem cells grow, Buttery and his colleagues added a few components to the cell samples, including steroid hormones and bits of fetal bone that released bone growth factors. After 21 days, 90% of the cells transformed into bone nodules. The researchers also noted that some of the cells transformed into nerve and muscle cells.

The researchers believe that the same principles involved in growing stem cells from a mouse embryo could be applied to human embryos and may lead to major advancements in treating osteoporosis and bone injuries. According to Buttery, creating purified bone cells to be used in bone repair without the problems of tissue rejection could also spur significant improvements in bone grafting and bone prosthesis in patients with traumatic bone injuries.

However, stem cell research is a very controversial subject, especially when it involves using cells from human embryos. Recently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health decided to allow federally funded research using stem cells from human embryos. Many of those who oppose embryo research say that researchers should focus more on how adult stem cells could be used to help create different cell types. According to Brigid Hogan, a stem cell researcher from Vanderbilt University, researchers have also shown that skin taken from adults could be turned into bone.

Stem cell research also offers promising medical advances in treating other diseases. The most exciting prospects include making transplantable brain cells for patients with Parkinson’s disease and pancreatic cells that produce insulin for patients with diabetes. Researchers are also investigating whether implanting nerve cells in the region of the brain damaged by stroke could help restore brain function. In a preliminary study involving 12 stroke patients, 50% of the patients showed significant improvement 24 weeks after the nerve cells were implanted.

If further research with human embryos proves successful, the researchers say that growing bone from stem cells could help improve the lives of patients with severe osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that affects mostly post-menopausal women. It is estimated that one in two women over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. Literally meaning "porous bone," osteoporosis is characterized by a decrease in normal bone density due to the loss of calcium and collagen. A loss of bone density causes bones to become brittle, and in turn, leads to frequent fractures and other serious effects. Osteoporosis is a threat to 28 million Americans and is currently one of the most under-diagnosed and under-treated disorders in medicine.

Current methods of preventing and treating osteoporosis include maintaining a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Women with low bone mineral density may also wish to consider taking hormone replacement therapy or other drug therapies, such as raloxifene (brand name, Evista), alendronate (brand name, Fosamax), calcitonin (brand name, Miacalcin), and risedronate sodium (brand name, Actonel).

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