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Stem Cells in Treating Nonhealing Bone Fractures

Stem cell treatment can be a promising one for healing broken bones that refuse to heal normally. Animal study finds that stem cell therapy might be effective combined with bone-regenerating hormone growth factor-I (IGF-I). These results have been presented at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the The Endocrine Society's in Boston, USA.

About 600,000 people in North America suffer annually from fractures that won’t heal, or so-called non-union fractures. The most affected are children with brittle bone disease and elderly people with osteoporosis. Their weak bones are subject to frequent fractures, and even surgical treatment cannot guarantee the positive outcome.

To study the ability of stem cells enriched with IGF-I to heal non-union fractures, the scientists used an animal model. A mouse that lacked ability to heal broken bones was injected bone marrow stem cells engineered so that they could produce IGF-1.

The researchers demonstrated that treated in such a way mice better healed their broken bones that mice in the control group or those treated with stem cells only. They have shown that stem cells combined with IGF-I turned into bone cells and speeded the healing. This resulted in more bone bridging the fracture gap compared to control, and these mice new bone tissue was three to four times stronger. Moreover, the treatment helped restore the bones even in mice completely lacking ability to heal fractures.

This is good evidence that stem cell treatment empowered with IGF-I can be effective for healing non-union fractures in humans. The researchers hope to start clinical tests in a few years.


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