Regrowing Bones

Dr. Treena Livingston Arinzeh works with adult stem cells to repair and regrow bones.

Treena Livingston Arinzeh, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is using adult stem cells in combination with scaffolds of calcium phosphates to repair and regrow bone. Arinzeh performed animal studies on rats with bone defects; she also did cell-culture studies. Both showed that the biomaterials stimulated stem cells, producing new bone tissue and fully repairing the rats' bones. After 12 weeks, their bones were regenerated, with full restoration of the mechanical properties of their long bones. Her finding were published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research.

Her studies could lead to medical breakthroughs that would help a host of patients. Stem cell implantation, for instance, could help cancer patients who've had large tumors removed from bone. In many such surgeries, patients lose their limbs. But if her method of implanting stem cells mixed with biomaterials is shown to induce bone repair, amputation may not be necessary.

Stem cells could also help patients suffering from osteoporosis, whose fractured bones can be regenerated by the cells. Dr. Arinzeh's research has also shown that adult stem cells taken from one patient can be successfully implanted in another. Researchers at first thought such a transfer might be rejected. Dr. Arinzeh is also testing biomaterials that, in combination with adult stem cells, might repair cartilage, tendon and neuronal tissues.