stem cells to mend damaged hips
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Bone stem cells
could in future be used instead of bone from donors as part of an innovative new
hip replacement treatment, according to scientists at the University of
A team from the University’s School of Medicine believe that introducing a
patient’s own skeletal stem cells into the hip joint during bone grafting would
encourage more successful regrowth and repair. The grafting technique is used to
repair the thigh bone and joint during replacement (known as ''revision'') hip
replacement therapy, a procedure in which surgeons introduce donor bone to the
damaged area to provide support for the new hip stem.
In this collaborative study between the University of Southampton and The
University of Nottingham, researchers will use adult stem cells from bone marrow
in combination with an innovative impaction process and polymer scaffolds.
In a two-year study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), researchers
aim to improve the outcomes of this high impact procedure. "Surgeons currently
use bone from donors during bone grafting, so introducing a patient’s own stem
cells to create a living cell or material composite would be a totally new
approach," comments Professor Richard Oreffo, an expert in musculoskeletal
science at the University of Southampton, who is leading the project.
"This is very much the beginning of a project to investigate the potential for
this new technique, but our preliminary work suggests this may have significant
therapeutic implications.” When a hip joint is damaged, part of the thigh bone
or femur, including the ball, can be removed and a new, artificial joint fixed
to the remaining thigh bone.
Revision hip replacement occurs when that artificial joint needs to be changed.
Professor Oreffo will introduce the stem cells to the hip joint using a
scaffold, or support structure, which is designed to protect them, and a new
The polymer scaffolds will be developed by Professors Steve Howdle and Kevin
Shakesheff, experts in chemistry and tissue engineering at the University of
Nottingham. Professor Howdle explains: “Building upon strong collaborations with
tissue engineering experts, this new grant will allow researchers at Nottingham
to take their materials nearer to the clinic. This could have great benefits for
patients, and also offer a significant cost saving for healthcare authorities;
but first we need to verify and build upon our preliminary data.”
“A major part of the work at Nottingham will involve scaling up the
supercritical fluid processing apparatus to create larger and more uniform
batches of polymer scaffolds for testing.” Dr Chris Watkins, MRC’s Translation
Theme Leader, says: “Resilience, repair and replacement is a priority research
area in the MRC’s strategic plan, ‘Research Changes Lives’.”
This study highlights how a regenerative approach can offer real hope in
addressing a significant problem for an ageing population.” This funding will
allow the groups to build on initial studies that show that degradable polymer
scaffolds prepared using supercritical carbon dioxide technology can have a
dramatic effect on surgical procedures, such as inserting a hip implant in
revision hip surgery.
The provisional studies carried out in Southampton show that the polymers can
aid bone formation through the creation of a living cell/material composite and
aid attachment of the hip implant.