Jan. 23 - Belgian doctors have successfully repaired bones using stem cells from fatty tissue. They say the new technique could become a benchmark to treat patients recovering from bone tumour surgery and a wide range of bone disorders. Jim Drury reports.
Stem cells taken from fatty tissue like this could radically improve outcomes for some patients with bone disorders. Researchers at Brussels' Saint Luc University have developed a technique to inject malleable subsititute bone made from the cells into the body. They've already used it to heal fractured limbs of patients with bone defects. The stem cells come from a sugar cube-sized piece of tissue removed from the patient's abdomen by syringe. It's a method that gathers the cells at a concentration 500 times higher than that achieved by the conventional method of extraction from the pelvis by needle. Malleable bone tissue is then grown from the cells without the need for supporting scaffold. SOUNDBITE (English) COORDINATOR OF SAINT-LUC'S CENTRE FOR TISSUE AND CELLULAR THERAPY, DR. DENIS DUFRANE, SAYING: "You are in a desert and you have a high risk that all classical therapy fails due to the fact that you have no vessels, no blood and you have no new formation of bone. And these cells are able to attract the vessels and recreate the environment required for bone consolidation." Coordinator Dr Denis Dufrane says the replacement bone can be moulded like plasticine to fill fractures, allowing them to heal naturally. The team treated 11 patients with fractures, eight of them children. Some had undergone chemotherapy which weakens bones, while others suffered from bone marrow conditions that made their healthy repair difficult. SOUNDBITE (English) COORDINATOR OF SAINT-LUC'S CENTRE FOR TISSUE AND CELLULAR THERAPY, DR. DENIS DUFRANE, SAYING: "We know that the product in this technology has the capacity to reconstitute and to regenerate bones for a large scale of indications. And the big hope is to propose this technology directly in emergency rooms to reconstitute bones when you have a trauma or something like that." Dufrane says the technique could revolutionise bone repair for children and spinal fusion among elderly people with degenerated discs. Spin-off company Novadip Biosciences is seeking investors to commercialise the discovery.