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Bone Grown from Monkey Skin Cells

May 17, 2014 08:01 AM EDT
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Researchers have been able to grow new bone from a monkey's own skin cells.

The study, published in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports, is the first time such a development has been shown in an animal that is similar to humans.

Professor Martin Pera, program leader of the ARC Stem Cells Australia, said the work is "another step towards the development of safe stem cell therapies for human disease," according to ABC Science.

The study involved induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are derived from adult skin cells and can be reprogrammed to work as other cells.

Previously, researchers would use mice in such studies, but because monkeys are the closest model species to humans physiologically, they are better indicators of how humans will respond to iPSCs.

Skin cells were taken from rhesus macaques, a type of small monkey, to form iPSCs, which were then turned into bone-forming cells.

Lead investigator Cynthia Dunbar of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explained that those "bone" cells were then implanted into the monkeys on ceramic particles that were already in use by reconstructive surgeons attempting to fill in or rebuild bone.

The monkeys successfully grew bone as early as eight week later.

Dunbar adds that unlike in studies involving mice injected with iPSCs the risk of tumors developing in the rhesus monkeys appeared to be low.

"The teratomas (tumours) only formed following injection of very high doses of undifferentiated iPSCs into animals, and even then the teratomas grew very slowly," she said.

Researchers also note that therapies based on iPSCs can potentially benefit people with large congenital bone defects or other traumatic injuries, and lead the way towards regenerative clinical medicine.

"A large animal preclinical model for the development of pluripotent or other high-risk/high-reward generative cell therapies is absolutely required to address issues of tissue integration or homing, risk of tumor formation, and immunogenicity," Dunbar said in a press release.

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