Scientists have found a way of accelerating bone growth through nanotubes and stem cells, potentially leading to quicker and better recovery from orthopaedic surgery.
Stem cells have been in the news for the revolutionary medical benefits they confer because they can be converted into selected types of newly generated cells.
University of California at San Diego (UCSD) researchers used a nano-biotechnology method of placing mesenchymal stem cells on top of ultra-thin titanium oxide nanotubes in order to control conversion paths, called differentiation, into osteoblasts or bone building cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells, which are different from embryonic stem cells, can be extracted and directly supplied from a patient's own bone marrow.
"If you break your knee or leg from skiing, for example, an orthopaedic surgeon will implant a titanium rod, and you will be on crutches for about three months," said Sungho Jin, co-author of the study and materials science professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering.
"But what we anticipate through our research is that if the surgeon uses titanium oxide nanotubes with stem cells, the bone healing could be accelerated and a patient may be able to walk in one month instead of being on crunches for three months.
"Our in-vitro (lab) and in-vivo (body) data indicate that such advantages can occur by using the titanium oxide nanotube treated implants, which can reduce the loosening of bones, one of the major orthopaedic problems that necessitate re-surgery operations for hip and other implants for patients," Jin added.
"Such a major re-surgery, especially for older people, is a health risk and significant inconvenience, and is also undesirable from the cost point of view."
This is the first study of its kind using stem cells attached to titanium oxide nanotube implants, said a UCSD release.
The study has appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.