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Growing Bones By 'Kicking' Stem Cells Shows Medical Promise

Apr 05, 2013 05:35 PM EDT
X-ray images, photographed in Berlin's Virchow hospital, show fractured wrist bones of a patient who slipped on an ice-covered pavement in Berlin January 6, 2011
(Photo : Reuters)

Common courtesy says don't kick a person while they are down.

But new research out of Scotland indicates that patients needing treatment for bone conditions like stress fractures, spinal traumas or osteoporosis might need a good kick in the bones.

Or, more accurately, about 1,000 kicks a second on the nanoscopic level.

It's not as violent as it sounds. The "nanokicks" are a therapy treatment that can be used to convert adult stem cells from bone marrow into bone-making cells on a large scale without the use of chemical cocktails or challenging engineering.

The technical name for this is "nanoscale sinusoidal mechanotransductive protocols," which the developers have thankfully shortened to just "nanokicks"

The process replicates a vibration that occurs in the membranes of bone cells when they stick together to form new bone naturally in the body.

Both the natural vibration and the simulated nanokicks strike at about 1,000 times a second and will induce bone growth, the research states.

By taking mesenchymal stem cells and applying the nanokicking process to them the researchers were able to grow bone cells effectively.

The development is a remarkable new step in medical technology, but also remarkable for the collaboration across scientific disciplines that made it possible.

Cell biologists called upon astrophysicists for their expertise in using the precision technique of laser interferometry, which is usually used in an astrophysics lab to detect tiny ripples made by gravitational waves in space-time. The same technique was applied to nanokick the stem cells at the precise time and distance apart.

"Multidisciplinary research is tricky as researchers need to learn new scientific languages, however, this collaboration between cell biologists and astrophysicists - an unlikely pairing - has yielded new insight as to how bone stem cells work, said lead cell biologist Matt Dalby from the Centre for Cell Engineering at the University of Glasgow, 

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