Breaking new ground on fractures
Scientists at the University of York have launched a research project to develop ways of making bones from blood. Researchers from the University’s Department of Biology are heading the EC-backed project to create bone structures from cord blood stem cells for use in the repair of bone defects and fractures. The three-year, €2.5 million (£1.7 million) research involves scientists in the UK and across Europe, as well as academics from the University of York's Departments of Sociology and Philosophy, who will carry out sociological and ethical evaluations of the work. It will seek to find a viable new medical use for the two million units of cord blood banked in Europe, currently employed in transfusions and the treatment of leukaemia. Biologist and project co-ordinator Dr Paul Genever said: “The mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in cord blood appear similar to bone marrow stem cells but they are hard to locate. We aim to isolate and expand them so we have enough cells to use in therapies. "We also want to compare them with bone marrow and embryonic stem cells and investigate how we can turn them into bone structures for use as 3D bone replacements." Dr Genever added that if the creation of bone structures from stem cells proves viable, it might be used for cell-based therapies to repair bone defects and fractures. Ultimately, bone structures developed in this way could be used to make hip replacements more durable.