artificial bone marrow revolutionary treatment cure leukemia

Genetics

Published on January 27th, 2014

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Artificial Bone Marrow: Revolutionary treatment that could cure leukemia

For decades,  leukemia has been treated by transplantation of stem cells into the bone marrow, derived from healthy donors. But there are not enough donors to treat all patients with leukemia, so alternative treatments are needed. German researchers have recently made the first step towards making the artificial bone marrow in the laboratory.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that produces blood cells (red and white cells).

Scientists from the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany, have recently managed to grow stem cells in an artificial environment that mimics the growth conditions of the bone marrow.

It wasn’t a simple process: bone marrow is very complex , containing many different types of cells, molecules , proteins, explained the researchers .

They created a foam structure similar to bone marrow by means of a coagulated hydrogel (like the material used to make contact lenses) around crystals of salts, then removed the hydrogel from the crystals to leave holes for the stem cells to grow inside. Protein and various other cells were added to support the growth of stem cells, then added stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood.

This resulted in hematopoietic stem cells, cells which then develop all kinds of blood cells. The procedure was described in the journal Biomaterials.

Next, the researchers hope to cultivate cells in artificial environment for a longer period and to find a way to retrieve the cells from their scaffold. They also hope to “get a deep understanding of how the cells are influenced by the 3D environment and the material itself”, said study researcher Cornelia Lee-Thedieck.

The method must be refined and tested on animals before being tested in clinical trials on humans. If all goes well, there will probably be about 15 years before this therapy to be available, say researchers.

Source: FOX NEWS / Credit photo: C. Lee-Thedieck/KIT

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