People who need hip replacements could use cells taken during the procedure to help heal their damaged bones, researchers say
A ground-breaking Australian study has found that parts usually discarded when people with arthritis have hip replacements can actually be used to collect stem cells that could help regrow bone, cartilage and fat.
As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the number of hip replacements is rising each year. Melissa Knothe Tate, the Paul Trainor chair of biomedical engineering at the University of NSW, said her team had shown for the first time that the previously discarded tissue has the potential to be put to good use.
She said: “There is a lot of potential for stem cells to be used to harness the body’s own healing capacity for all sorts of illnesses. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in ageing adults and the increasing number of hip replacements opens up a new, easy way of getting stem cells.”
Her international research team collected samples from the periosteum, connective tissue in the ball at the very top of the thigh bone, of four people with arthritis who had hip replacement.
“These patients are aged and they have disease, so this study was quite out of the box,” Professor Knothe Tate said.
But on comparing the stem cells they derived with commercial cells taken from bone marrow they found “remarkable similarities”. The cells were similar to bone marrow in terms of their ability to develop into other cells in the lab, according to the research published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Professor Knothe Tate said patients could potentially bank their cells for future use, to help heal bones seriously damaged by things like car accidents or cancer surgery, by wrapping them in a cover that could deliver the cells to the injured area.
Otherwise, patients that needed a major bone repair would generally be treated by surgeons rebreaking their bone and placing a metal ring outside their leg that pulled the bone down, forcing it to grow.
But studies on sheep had proved both bone and cartilage could instead be regrown using the stem cell technique.
“This could help people who were born a generation too late to bank their own cord tissues or blood,” she said. Using stem cells taken from a person’s own body, rather than someone else’s, greatly decreased any risk they would suffer an infection or that their body’s immune system would reject them.
In the “far future” she would like to see the stem cells developed into treatments that could help treat the very arthritis that created the need for the hip replacement in the first place.
“People thought we were crazy to try this idea, but this is an incredible first step,” she said.