Rapid stem cell culture promises cartilage repair

Damaged and disease joints could be repaired with cells derived from embryonic stem cells after scientists in Manchester developed a method to grow copious amounts in just 14 days.

Rapid stem cell culture promises cartilage repair

Embryonic stem cells encouraged to grow into cartilage in new research

Researchers from the University of Manchester and Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust took human embryonic stem cells and developed a culture procedure programming the cells’ development with a timed series of culture conditions containing different added nutrients to ensure they only produced chondrocytes – the cells that go on to form cartilage.

The procedure takes 14 days to generate a high yield of cells and established a chemically-defined and reproducible process.

“We were very encouraged to have been able to generate chondrocytes within 14 days using a controlled and well defined programme and it now remains for us to take these cells and test their performance to repair cartilage in live animals,” said Professor Sue Kimber, co-director of the North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre who were also involved in the project.

The team now plan to grow and transplant cartilage tissue to live animals to test their potential in cartilage repair and investigate generating chondrocytes and other cells derived from embryonic stem cells that may be suitable for clinical use and produced under clinically stringent conditions – a process they believe may take up to 10 years.

“The use of these stem cell derived chondrocytes may lead to simpler surgical procedures and it raises the possibility of using one source of banked cells for many patients with inherent reduced costs,” said Professor Tim Hardingham of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research, “Our work could therefore lead to a treatment for cartilage repair that is both easier and cheaper and may be extended to early osteoarthritic patients, but this will take a considerable amount of time for further development.”

2 Responses to Rapid stem cell culture promises cartilage repair

  1. Derek Jones says:

    I’ve just picked up this article as a reference from a BBC download on “Inside Health”, so it’s a bit late.

    My first point of interest is the origin of the embryonic stem cells. My limited knowledge leads me to believe that a human egg is involved, perhaps one left over from IVF treatment and then fertilised in vitrio. This raises some ethical considerations.

    My second point of interest is how one persuades embryonic stem cells to become chondrocytes in preference to other cell types. How, too, does one ensure that the cartilage cells don’t just go on dividing to become a tumour? And, finally, what if the embryonic stem cells decide to differentiate into other cell types whilst in vivo?

    The article raises more points of interest than it answers. Let’s hope the explanations can be given in lay language because I’m not an aficionado in topic

    • Natalie Healey says:

      Hi there – thanks for commenting! Embryonic stem cells used to be obtained solely from eggs left over from IVF (with the donor’s permission) but i think the law’s changed now so researchers here are able to make embryonic stem cells by taking an animal egg cell, removing the genetic information and inserting the nucleus from a donor human cell (the basis of cloning).
      As for your second points – researchers can choose which cells the embryonic stem cells will transform into by varying chemicals (called transcription factors) in the cell media. Different combinations of these factors generate different cell types. I think there are still a few concerns about safety in regards to tumours and differentiating into other stem cells (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratoma ).
      These links might be helpful: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/Policy/Spotlight-issues/Human-Fertilisation-and-Embryology-Act/Stem-cell-basics/index.htm

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