Scientists ‘could grow new bone using vibrations’

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SCIENTISTS may be able to grow new bone by using high frequency vibrations to kick-start stem cells, a Scottish study suggests.

Researchers in Glasgow said it could be possible to produce the new bone material by “nanokicking” stem cells 1,000 times per second using the vibration technique.

This method is cheaper and easier to implement than current technologies, they said.

It is hoped that the process may lead to new therapies for orthopaedic conditions such as spinal injuries, osteoporosis and stress fractures.

This project involved cell engineers, Professor Adam Curtis and Dr Matthew Dalby, of the University of Glasgow, and astrophysicist Dr Stuart Reid, from the University of the West of Scotland.

Stem cells are the building blocks of the body and have the potential to turn into different types of cell and tissue.

Scientists across Scotland and around the world are working to try to harness their potential to treat serious and debilitating illnesses.

The latest work focused on mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which are naturally produced by the body and have the potential to change into specialised cell types such as bone, cartilage, ligament, tendon and muscle.

Scientists are able to isolate these cells and create the right conditions to mimic what happens in the body so they grow into specialised cell types and tissue in the lab.

But getting stem cells to do this correctly is difficult and current methods rely on expensive and highly engineered materials, or complex cocktails of chemicals.

However, the Glasgow researchers hope that the “nanokicking” process may lead to a fundamental change in the way new bone can be grown using stem cells.

When individual bone cells stick together to form new bone tissue, the membranes of each cell vibrate as they adhere.

It is thought that vibrating the stem cells at this frequency encourages “communication” between the cells and promotes bone formation.

Scientists can replicate this vibration by “kicking” the stem cells in the lab at high speed to mimic the vibrating effect.

The team measured the strength and frequency of the kicks using a technique called laser interferometry.

Dr Dalby from the centre for cell engineering at the University of Glasgow, said: “This new observation provides a simple method of converting adult stem cells from the bone marrow into bone-making cells on a large scale without the use of cocktails of chemicals or recourse to challenging and complex engineering.

“Multidisciplinary research is tricky as researchers need to learn new scientific languages. However, this collaboration between cell biologists and astrophysicists – an unlikely pairing – has yielded new insight as to how bone stem cells work.”