Saturday, March 14, 2009

Innovation in Bone Marrow Growth and Stem Cells

Bone marrow plays an important role in the immune system and bodily rejuvenation. Stem cells that originate within bone marrow generate various sorts of infection-fighting blood cells and help repair damaged organs. At the university of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Nicholas Kotov and colleagues have been trying to artificially grow bone marrow.

Dr. Kotov's team has tried to replicate the 3-D interior of bone using a material called hydromel, which is soft. To account for bone's rigidity, Kotov seeded liquid hydromel with tiny granules of polystyrene. Upon solidification the granules were dissolved in tetrahydrofurane, a solvent, leaving a porous structure. This is key, because in the body stem cells, from which marrow is formed, grow in tiny pores within the bone. Once the matrix was complete, researchers transplanted donor bone marrow into the culture.

In the journal Biomaterials Kotov's team reported that cells placed in the artificial environment behaved as if they were in real bone-marrow tissue. In further tests, an introduction of influenze virus prompted cultured cells to release antibodies to destroy the viruses. It's enough to spark the imaginations of scientific and medical optimists. From here, researchers can study the deleterious effects certain drug therapies have on bone marrow and associated stem cells. Who knows, if tissue engineering pioneers like Kotov could one day design drug resistant bone marrow, powerful drug treatment could better target a disease by minimizing harm to a patient's body.


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