Up til now stem cells have generally been injected or otherwise inserted into living tissue to get them to grow into specific types of organs or other tissue. Now scientists in the UK in collaboration with an Israeli research team have managed to grow human bone in the lab with stem cells from fat tissue. They’ve already successfully implanted a piece of lab-grown human bone into a rat’s leg, where it joined nicely with the creature’s existing bone.
The researchers use scans of the damaged bone to construct a gel-like scaffold that shows the stem cells how to grow into the shape of the needed replacement. Then the mold of stem cells is turned into actual bone in a special machine called a bioreactor that provides the conditions needed for this miracle to take place.
The bone grown from stem cells could theoretically be used to replace damaged or missing bone—for example in repairing a cleft palate. They mention using it to fix bones that have been crushed or otherwise mangled in accidents.
I suspect that once this process is perfected, far down the road, doctors may eventually be able to use it to construct replacement bone for arthritic hips and knees. Too bad it will be long after I and my arthritic relatives will be around to have any need for it.