German researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, in Stuttgart, and Tübingen University announce the development of artificial bone marrow capable of reproducing hematopoietic stem cells. Soon, this innovation may be used to treat leukemia in patients with advanced blood cancer.
Details of the prototype hydrogels that the team used in this research are published in the January issue of the scientific journal Biomaterials. The team explains that these porous polymers are used as 3D scaffolds for holding hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). The cells are anchored within the scaffolds by molecular ligands identical to those found in bone marrow.
HSC is an important stem cell population in the body, since it is responsible for the production of all other blood cell types, from T cells and NK cells to macrophages, neutrophils and basophils. In leukemia, many of these cell types are damaged, or produced in much lower amounts than usual.
Now that the major properties of natural bone marrow have been replicated artificially, researchers will find it much easier to study the origins of leukemia, as well as possible ways of tackling it. The team says that any potential cure for this condition is still several years away from entering mainstream use.