A material that allows bone-forming stem cells to be transplanted into severe bone fractures and speeds up the healing process has been developed by researchers.
This new method improves repair and may change how broken bones are treated, the scientists say.
The study describes stem cells and mature bone cells grown on a biomaterial, in a structure that simulates parts of the healthy bone.
According to the paper published in Nature Materials, the development could lead to fewer complications, infections and poor outcomes for serious injuries.
The biomaterial, like a bandage, is coated in a protein that is used throughout the body for growth and repair.
This bandage can be stuck to the fracture like a plaster and enhance the bone’s natural ability to heal, which speeds up the repair process.
Researchers say the process can be sped up even more by growing bone stem cells that generate bone cells in a three-dimensional gel on the bandage and transplanting this bone-like bandage into the fracture.
The healing process from a serious fracture can be slow or can even fail in vulnerable patients such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.
Current methods for bone repair use synthetic implants or donor tissue – where bone is taken from elsewhere in the body – to repair the break.
And this method relies on the body’s ability to heal, which can be weakened after serious injury.
Researchers from the Habib lab at the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London, developed the design to specifically target the fracture and not leak to the healthy tissue.
They say the bandages can even be made biodegradable to simply be absorbed by the body when healing has finished.
According to the scientists, these safety features, and the powerful effect of the bandages, means that they could have the potential to be used in hospitals
Dr Shukry Habib, from King’s College London, said: “Our technology is the first to engineer a bone-like tissue from human bone stem cells in the lab within one week, and successfully transplant it in the bone defect to initiate and accelerate bone repair.
“The concept of the 3D-engineered tissue and the bandage has the potential to be developed to different injured tissues and organs.”
The Habib group will be taking the bone-bandages, which were tested in a lab on mice, into clinical trials and aims to develop the idea of the bandages concept further to improve healing in other organs and tissues.