Brain and Body

Biotech Company Wants to Grow Human Bones From Fat Cells

June 30, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

Bone growth
Photo credit: Screen capture from video by TED Blog video

They hope to help people who need reconstructive surgery in the future!

Scientists at the Brooklyn-based biotech company, Epibone, are testing how to grow human bones from multipotent stem cells that are derived from fat tissue.

The CEO and co-founder of Epibone, Nina Tandon, explained during an interview with Scientific American what the process of growing human bone from fat cells involves:

“We take two things from the patient. One is a sample of their fat tissue, from which we extract stem cells. The other is a CT scan, which is like a three-dimensional X-ray of the bone we want to engineer. We use this to make the perfect shape, what we call a scaffold. This scaffold can be made out of protein and collagen from animal bones, or it can be made from synthetic materials. We infuse the cells into this puzzle-piece shape, this scaffold, and over about three weeks the cells mature into a piece of bone that's ready for implantation.”

SEE ALSO: 3D “Bioprinter” Makes Lab-Grown Ears, Muscles, and Bone Tissues​

Currently, the standard procedure for reconstructive surgeries involves taking a piece of bone out one part of the body and putting it into another part where it’s required. Although the procedure (known as an autograft) works fairly well, it still causes problems because there isn’t a single piece of bone in your body that’s not necessary.

Now, Epibone is hoping to change that by growing a patient their own bone to the requirements they would need. Warren Grayson, who leads a laboratory working on tissue engineering at Johns Hopkins University, led the first study to show that bone grafts made from stem cells could potentially work in humans. His team grew a human jawbone using stem cells from fat tissue.

Although the technology seems attainable, it will come with many challenges. While Tandon and her team have shown their technology works in animals, they have not yet tested it on people.

Tandon told Scientific American that her company is currently conducting animal experiments and is about 18 months away from human trials, but Epibone’s ultimate goal is to be on the market by 2023. If all goes to plan, they might just change the way reconstructive surgeries will be done in the future, since after blood, bone is the most transplanted material in the US alone.

Watch: How to grow bone from stem cells derived from fat tissue


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