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Scientists Grow Bones from Adult Skin Cells

Update Date: May 07, 2013 10:02 AM EDT
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In the future, bones may be able to be repaired using stem cells. A recent study found that researchers were able to grow bones from skin cells, a staggering achievement.

The research was performed by taking a sample of skin cells. From there, the skin cells were coaxed into a state so that they resembled the early stages of bone formation, according to the Daily Mail. Those cells were then placed onto a three-dimensional scaffold so that they could grow. Then, over the course of 12 weeks, the cells were placed under the skin of mice.

Happily, the cells grew into bones. Crucially, the bones also formed a blood supply. Also importantly, the researchers saw no hint of tumor formation. While stem cells have been viewed by the public as a miracle cure, their development can sometimes result in the formation of tumors.

This is not the first research delving into the formation of bones. Previous studies have attempted to form bones from embryonic stem cells and from bone marrow. However, creating bones from embryonic stem cells can trigger a person's immune system to react, which would harm or prevent the end result. Using bone marrow to create new bones has been unsuccessful as well, as the resulting formation does not come accompanied with the blood vessels or nerve network that bones need in order to thrive.

As Dr. Darja Marolt explained to the Daily Mail, "Bone is more than a hard mineral deposit, it is an active organ that constantly remodels. Blood vessels shuttle important nutrients to healthy cells and remove waste; nerves provide connection to the brain, and bone marrow cells form new blood and immune cells."

Though the research is a bit distant for the technique to be used to help humans, it is easy to see what it would be used for. Such technology could be used to help people with arthritis, broken bones or bones that have been damaged with disease. In fact, many doctors are already employing the use of stem cells to fight arthritis in joints, to much controversy, because opponents say that it could potentially be dangerous to administer such treatments without knowing more about stem cells.

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