By attaching mesenchymal stem cells to the tips of titanium oxide nanotubes, UC San Diego engineers were able to create a compound that can speed up bone growth. Because mesenchymal stem cells can be gathered from a patient’s own bone marrow, breaking one’s arm in the future may require a biopsy followed by a nanoparticle injection to the wound.
From UC San Diego:
According to this breakthrough research, nanotubes with a larger diameter cause cells growing on their surface to elongate much more than those with a small diameter. The larger diameter nanotube promotes quicker and stronger bone growth. “The use of nano topography to induce preferred differentiation was reported in recent years by other groups, but such studies were done mostly on polymer surfaces, which are not desirable orthopedic implant materials,” Jin [Sungho Jin, materials science professor at UC San Diego] said.
It is common for physicians and surgeons to use chemicals for stem cell implants in order to control cell differentiation, a conversion into a certain desired type of cells, for example, to neural cells, heart cells, and bone cells. However, introducing chemicals into the human body can sometimes have undesirable side effects. “What we have accomplished here is a way to introduce desirable guided differentiation using only nanostructures instead of resorting to chemicals,” said Seunghan (Brian) Oh, who is the lead author of the PNAS article.
The next step for engineers will be to work with orthopedic surgeons and other colleagues at the UC San Diego School of Medicine to study ways to translate this breakthrough research to clinical application, said Shu Chien, a UC San Diego bioengineering professor and director of the university’s new Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM). Chien said this effort will be fostered by the IEM, whose goal is to bring together scientists, engineers and medical experts to come up with novel approaches to medicine.