Pharma

Wow of the week: Scientists use layered clay to grow bone cells

It was a big news for stem cells this week, particularly from a group of researchers who successfully transformed human skin cells into embryonic stem cells, showing that it’s possible to clone embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the person from whom they’re sourced. But another interesting stem cell development that escaped most […]

It was a big news for stem cells this week, particularly from a group of researchers who successfully transformed human skin cells into embryonic stem cells, showing that it’s possible to clone embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the person from whom they’re sourced. But another interesting stem cell development that escaped most of the media scrum this week was the discovery that layered clay can induce stem cells to become bone cells. The finding could have big implications for orthopedic medtech from the development of joint implants to helping people heal from fractures and potentially osteoporosis.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital made the discovery that the clay known as synthetic silicate nanoplatelets could be induce stem cells to become bone cells without the addition of other materials was published in Advanced Materials this week. Akhilesh Gaharwar of the BWH division of Biomedical Engineering, the study’s first author, said it could be used to develop therapeutics for bioengineering and eventually speed up recovery times.

The National Institutes of Health, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, and the National Science Foundation. funded the research, according to the Harvard Gazette.

With more baby boomers reaching retirement age and beyond there’s a need for a new generation of devices and therapeutics that can improve recovery times from fractures. Having an organic source of bone, albeit in the very early stages of development could also be appealing to the medical device industry which has been plagued by lawsuits over problems with metal hip implants.

Another bone related innovation occurred earlier this year, when a a skull implant developed by Oxford Performance Materials with the help of 3-D printing was used to replace 75 percent of a man’s skull. The OsteoFab Patient Specific Cranial Device is made from a high performance polymer that’s biocompatible and mechanically similar to bone.

[Photo credit BigStock Photo surface cracked clay]