Bone grafts help millions of people suffering from bone loss due to trauma or disease. Typically, traumatic bone injuries and bone loss due to disease have been mended with synthetic grafts or segments of bone taken from another area in the patient’s body. However, these treatments do not last long-term in growing bodies, and lack vasculature required for mature bone growth. In vitro tests at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute of a new technology called Segmental Additive Tissue Engineering (SATE) have demonstrated stem cell grown segments of bone creating large scale, personalized grafts. The SATE protocol seeds the patient’s own stem cells into a scaffold and directs the cells to develop into customized and vascularized bone segments, which pose virtually no risk of rejection, and are able to grow with the patient.
Wan-Ju Li and Tsung-Lin Tsai, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have developed a more efficient method to regrow large masses of bone. Using the proteins lipocalin-2 and prolactin, the researchers were able to slow and neutralize senescence, a naturally occurring process that negatively impacts the ability of stem cells to divide and grow, thereby preserving the regenerative capabilities of the mesenchymal stem cells and facilitating bone growth. The combination of these two proteins in culture provides sustenance for the stem cells to remain in prime condition until they are ready to be implanted into the patient.