A new paper authored by University of Rochester specialists and published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia documents the use of hydrogels to facilitate the healing of injured bone tissue with the help of stem cells.
Simply put, the paper describes the use of hydrogels to force stem cells to remain at the site of the injury until the tissue is healed. Once their work is done, the hydrogels disappear leaving no trace that they were ever in the body.
The University of Rochester scientists who worked on this research project explain that, as shown by several previous studies, stem cells can successfully be used to regenerate bone tissue that has sustained one injury or another.
This is because stem cells are built in such a way that they have the ability to turn into several other types of cells that are present in a given living organism, Phys Org tells us.
The trouble is that, when put to work to regenerate bone tissue, stem cells tend to grow a sudden taste for independence, throw a fit, and leave the repair site. Needless to say, this is not exactly good news for the healing process.
While carrying out experiments on laboratory mice, specialist Danielle Benoit and fellow researchers managed to use hydrogels mimicking the natural tissues of the body to keep stem cells in place and thus facilitate the regeneration of bone tissue.
Interestingly enough, the hydrogels were found to be able to drastically reduce the number of migrating stem cells not only in vitro, i.e. outside the body, but also in vivo, i.e. inside the animal, information shared with the public says.
This was despite the fact that, unlike bones in vitro, those found within the rodent's bodies were part and parcel of a very dynamic environment that also included blood flow that should have made it easier for the stem cells to pull a Houdini and disappear only to show up someplace else moments later.
“Our success opens the door for many – and more complicated – types of bone repair,” Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Danielle Benoit commented on the outcome of these experiments during a recent interview.
The researchers explain that, by toying with their makeup, they can control how long it takes for the hydrogels to disappear and, consequently, for how long they play the police officers with the stem cells. What's more, they argue that the hydrogels might also serve to promote the healing of injured heart tissues.