Like Samson, researchers in the field of stem cells have used the jawbone to make a point. Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic and her team at Columbia University have manipulated adult stem cells to grow one of the most difficult sections of bone to replace, the temporomandibular joint. This jawbone was created by allowing pluripotent cells harvested from marrow to grow in a scaffold that was fashioned to mimic the TMJ’s shape.
It is the first accurate and anatomically sized bone created by stem cells in a lab. Dr. Vunjak-Novakovic hopes that this new creation will serve as a proof of concept — if they can make the complex TMJ, they should be able to grow many other bones in your body. While this work is truly amazing, it still has some major hurdles to jump before it could be used to replace damaged or cancerous bones in humans (…)
Growing a fully functional part of the human body depends not only on coaxing adult stem cells to replicate and specialize, it also requires one heck of a nursery. The Columbia team has developed a bioreactor which provides all of the necessary nutrients for stem cells to develop into bone. The shape of the scaffold inside the bioreactor was defined through the use of many digital pictures. Which raises the possibility that eventual bone recipients could have the new body part made to look exactly like the old one. While the bioreactor is top notch, work still has to be done to find a way for the newly created bone to carry its own blood supply that can be easily adapted into the host (…)