Stem Cells From Fat May Heal Bones

Stem cells from a wounded soldier's own fat may be useful in healing broken or damaged bones. UC Davis biomedical engineer Kent Leach has received a CDMRP Hypothesis Development Award from the U.S. Army to explore a new approach to tissue regeneration that may speed bone healing and return to function.

Dr. Leach will use stem cells derived from human adipose tissue (fat) to stimulate the formation of microvascular networks (neovascularization) within developing bone. Bone regeneration depends upon the formation of these networks to deliver oxygen and other nutrients necessary for healing. Most current clinical approaches inject pure stem cells systemically or locally, yet bone formation is hit or miss.

Dr. Leach’s project will embed the stem cells in a special gel to implant them directly in the injured site. This “composite hydrogel” contains a mixture of different polymers that controls the rate at which the gel degrades. Materials that degrade too slowly impede tissue formation, while gels that degrade too quickly will not hold stem cells in place. Scientists mix stem cells and other chemicals into the gel, and inject it, in liquid form, into the bone fracture or defect. The gel congeals, entrapping stem cells at the defect site to promote bone repair. Leach’s team has already developed a composite hydrogel and used it to deliver stem cells derived from bone marrow to injured horses.

This "gel" sounds a lot like gobathian, a science-fictional technology (technovelgy!) from Clifford Simak's classic 1961 novel Time is the Simplest Thing.

"Gobathian? That was what you used? That was why he was all wrapped up?"

"He was broken," said the doctor. "Like a toy someone had thrown on the floor and stepped on. What you do you know about gobathian?" he asked.

"I've heard of it," said Blaine.

"An alien drug," the doctor said. "Used by an insect race. A warring insect race. And it's done miracles. It can patch up a smashed and broken body. It can repair bones and organs. It can grow new tissue."

From UD Davis press release.

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