Imperial College London

Award for pioneering stem cell research to mend broken bones

Award for pioneering stem cell research to mend broken bones

New funding could lead to the development of new and better treatments for broken bones and other orthopaedic problems <em> - News Release</em>

Adapted from a press release issued by the BBSRC

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) could lead to the development of new and better treatments for broken bones and other orthopaedic problems associated with ageing.

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Nearly £4M has been awarded to scientists from Imperial College London and the universities of Keele, Nottingham and Southampton, who will work together combining stem cell science and tissue engineering to look at the development and repair of human skeletal tissue.

Fractures, bone loss due to trauma or disease and other orthopaedic conditions pose a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem, especially with an aging population, but as yet there is no large scale effective treatment for replacing or repairing damaged bones.

Professor Richard Oreffo, from the University of Southampton, who is leading the study, said: "Despite intense research, significant challenges for the reconstruction of tissues such as bone remain. Bone and cartilage tissue repair is a highly complex development process. A key requirement for these regeneration strategies to succeed remains our ability to understand skeletal cell activity, develop appropriate scaffolds and to understand how the environment the cells find themselves in affects their ability to interact with other cells to form new bone or cartilage."

Over the next five years, the scientists will combine their expertise in skeletal stem cells, scaffolds and materials chemistry to identify the key growth factors, matrix proteins and physical conditions that will enhance tissue regeneration and ultimately lead to more effective skeletal repair strategies.

Fractures, bone loss and other orthopaedic conditions pose a significant problem, especially with an ageing population

"We believe a paradigm shift in approach is required if we are to lead internationally in regenerative medicine. Our findings of how stem cells, scaffolds and the physical environment can be combined to induce new bone and cartilage will be used to augment and accelerate bone repair. This will allow us to develop new regimes for cartilage and bone regeneration ultimately leading to more effective treatments" added Professor Oreffo.

Professor Molly Stevens, from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London, said: "At Imperial we already have a very active multidisciplinary team developing novel biomaterials for regenerative medicine and biosensing. This grant is very exciting as it will enable us to focus specifically on developing new injectable biomaterials for use in clinical situations, such as severe fractures that would not otherwise heal. The research programme will be very valuable in pushing forward new collaborations for the in depth investigation of the physical and biological properties of the materials so that translation to the clinic is facilitated."

The research consortium comprises Professor Molly Stevens, Imperial College London, Professor Alicia El Haj, Keele University, Professor Kevin Shakesheff, University of Nottingham and Professor Richard Oreffo, University of Southampton.

Commenting on the award, Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: "Fractures, particularly among older people, are a major cause of morbidly and mortality, and costs the NHS billions of pounds each year. This truly multidisciplinary approach to the basic research necessary to improve our scientific understanding opens up exciting possibilities in the area of skeletal development and repair, an area where advancement is becoming increasingly urgent on both a quality of life and an economic level as our population gets older."


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