Bone marrow was the first stem cell source to be widely used in clinical transplant surgery to replace damaged bone as a result of injury or chemotherapy. Unfortunately, bone marrow grafts are painful, and the appropriate donor is not always available when the need is there. Now research at the University of California Los Angeles' Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine has demonstrated successfully that stem cells from the patient's own fat (i.e. adipose tissue) can be made usable for bone damage treatment. Bone marrow is, after all, the soft, fatty tissue inside your bones that contains immature cells (aka stem cells) that give rise to all of your blood cells. So looking to fatty tissue from another part of the body to produce mesenchymal cells has made sense all along, though it has taken the efforts of several UCLA teams to show how it can be done in an animal model.
[Image courtesy of the LA Examiner]
The UCLA researchers that have accomplished this scientific breakthrough with fat stem cells are Drs. Chia Soo and Bruno Péault, and their results have just been published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine (June 11, 2012 issue). Previous experiments using adipose tissue required culturing for long periods of time to isolate the stem cells that could be become bone; unfortunately, long culture time tends to produce irregularities that could compromise quality and success. The alternate method of deriving usable bone marrow cells from fat has been a process called stromal vascular fraction (SVF), but it produces a lot of cells that aren't capable of becoming bone marrow as well.
Enter the work of a third UCLA scientist, Dr. Kang Ting, whose research identified a bone growth factor called NELL-1. Using a cell sorting machine, Drs. Soo and Péault isolated and purified human perivascular stem cells (hPSC), added the NELL-1, and implanted the resulting cell mixture into an animal muscle pouch, where bone does not usually grow. The result was that the stem cells did in fact become bone. According to Dr. Soo (photo, right):
“The purified human hPSCs formed significantly more bone in comparison to the SVF by all parameters. And these cells are plentiful enough that patients with not much excess body fat can donate their own fat tissue.”
The goal is for the process to isolate the hPSCs and add the NELL-1 with a matrix or scaffold to aid cell adhesion to take less than an hour, Soo added.
Traditional bone marrow transplants are performed very regularly and for a number of reasons. For example, chemotherapy and radiation patients often need fresh bone marrow because the stem cells in their own have been killed during the treatment for their disease. The ability to painlessly and quickly acquire and prepare usable replacement bone marrow stem cells from a patient's own body fat reserves would mark a huge step forward at the clinical level. It is from research being performed at campuses like UCLA, USC, and UC Irvine in Southern California (all with Broad/CIRM centers of regenerative medicine) that you may very well see this incredible science solution in the lifetime of the car you currently drive.
If you missed an earlier blog of ours on another successful preliminary stem cell research study at UCLA, in a human being, read: UCLA Stem Cell Research Restores Vision in Successful Trial Procedure.
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will be holding its 29th Seminnual UCLA Biotechnology Vendor Showcase expo event on campus October 4, 2012. This professional show is an excellent opportunity for life scientists and lab equipment specialists to come together and discuss the latest and most practical lab technologies to move research forward fast. The UCLA BVS event is the largest of three BCI tradeshows held over a three-day period in the greater Los Angeles area:
- 10/02/2012 -- 12th Annual BRPF event, UC Irvine
- 10/03/2012 -- 7th Semiannual Front Line event, University of Southern California, Health Sciences Campus
- 10/04/2012 -- 29th Semiannual BVS event, UCLA
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