Liquid bone tissue to treat osteoporosis

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A team based at the University of Nottingham is developing liquid bone tissue to aid in the regeneration of fragile and weak bones in those suffering from osteoporosis.

The paste is made of porous calcium phosphate microspheres, with stem cells to boost new bone growth. The calcium phosphate offers a protective casing for the stem cells, which are often extremely delicate and generally die after transplantation.

The development is targeted at the increased number of older people who are at risk of fractures. It could reduce hospital visits and ease the financial burden placed on the NHS.

Around three million Brits suffer from osteoporosis. This is due to a number of factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise and genes. It results in around 120000 spinal, 60000 hip and 50000 wrist fractures annually, which costs the health and social care system around £1.7bn per year.

One of the researchers at Nottingham University, Dr Ifty Ahmed, said the team were targeting a preventative treatment which would strengthen the bones of those most at risk, prior to suffering a fracture. He said they would use screening methods to determine those who are at risk and strengthen their bones prior to fractures.

This implies that rather than waiting for people to fall and break a bones, the treatment would be offered as a method of preventing the break, surgery and secondary illnesses.

There have been previous attempts at trying to find methods to strengthen thinning bones, but the main problem has been the protection of the fragile stem cells, hence there has been no success in developing this form of treatment.

Dr Ahmed and his team are hoping to overcome this problem by puncturing the small hollow spheres of calcium phosphate, which will allow the stem cells to move inside them whilst being protected.

This treatment has not yet undergone human trials.

The procedure would involve the extraction of stem cells from the patient’s bone barrow, combining it with the microspheres and injecting the paste into the vulnerable areas.

According to Dr Ahmed, this type of treatment could be done in one day.

The team are currently seeking a commercial partner for this venture as they were previously funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Image Credit: liverpoolhls

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