Scientists from Stanford University have successfully generated human skeletal stem cells that are capable of differentiating in to bone, cartilage or stromal tissue. This discovery may lead to FDA approved treatment for arthritis, dislocated joints or fractures via anthroscopy.
Researchers found several ways to harvest skeletal stem cells. They can either be extracted from the end of a bone, or cultivated by exposing other cells to the right environment. Intermediate steps to the procedure require transfiguration of skeletal stem cells in to more specialized “progenitor cells”. The difference between them being proximity to true specialization. In other words progenitor cells are “further down the line” of developing bones or cartilage.
“Every day, children and adults need normal bone, cartilage and stromal tissue. There are 75 million Americans with arthritis, for example. Imagine if we could turn readily available fat cells from liposuction into stem cells that could be injected into their joints to make new cartilage, or if we could stimulate the formation of new bone to repair fractures in older people.” said Michael Longaker, MD, professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Stanford University.
By demonstrating the relationship between skeletal stem cells, progenitor cells and their more useful differentiated counterparts scientists were able to draft a family tree of descending stages important to development and maintenance of the skeleton. Using the skeletal stem cells as a foundation they can also encourage the multiplication of human hematopoietic (blood) stem cells, which could be useful for transplanting blood.
“I would hope that, within the next decade or so, this cell source will be a game-changer in the field of arthroscopic and regenerative medicine. The United States has a rapidly ageing population that undergoes almost 2 million joint replacements each year. If we can use this stem cell for relatively non-invasive therapies, it could be a dream come true,” Longaker said.