Sandeep Paul and Seth Ruffins
Hard Science

Scientists Are Using Stem Cells to Repair Broken Bones

Stem cells may be the key to fixing broken bones.

Broken Bones

In a new study, stem cells have been found to be useful for the development of a special type of cartilage that could repair major bone fractures.

The study, led by Gage Crump, looked into the regeneration of zebrafish (a species of vertebrates that has the ability to regenerate a number of their organs). Specifically, the team looked at jawbones to demonstrate that the process involved in embryonic development does not necessarily recur in the regeneration of damaged body parts, such as broken bones.

And what the uncovered could forever alter how to treat major injuries.

“An exciting finding from our work is that, somewhat counterintuitively, cartilage is critical for healing full-thickness bone injuries,” said Crump, associate professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “By understanding how this bone-producing cartilage is generated in the simpler zebrafish model, we hope to find ways to create more of this unique cartilage tissue in patients to better heal their bones.”

The Future of Bone Repair

Anyone who has to get broken bones fixed today will require surgeons to insert metal pins and plates to set the bone. In some cases, a bone graft may be required, while others will opt for the still-developing practice of adding stem cells in an effort to speed up recovery.

Most will recover fully; however, others will not respond to these traditional treatments. To that end, this latest work suggests that, for major repairs, stimulating stem cells to create a special kind of cartilage may be more effective to fix broken bones.

Their study was recently published in Development.

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