LONDON - Scientists have edged closer to growing replacement bones with stem cell technology.

Molly Stevens, professor at Imperial College London and author of a new study said: “Our study brings us one step closer to developing materials that will have the highest chance of success when implanted into patients.”

The effort is on to create bone-like materials, derived from stem cells, to implant into patients who have damaged or fractured bones, or who have had parts of diseased bones removed.

The idea is that, eventually, these bone-like materials could be inserted into cavities so that real bone could meld with it and repair the bone.

So far, scientists have found they can grow small ‘nodules’ of what appeared to be bone-like material in the lab from different types of bone cells and stem cells.

All of these cell types are attracting considerable interest as promising candidates for future implants in people with clinical trials already underway.

However, scientists still need to thoroughly explore and understand the in-depth chemical properties and structure of the bone-like materials they are growing.

Now, scientists at Imperial College have compared the ‘bone-like’ material grown

from three different commonly used clinically relevant cell types and have discovered

significant differences between the quality of bone-like material that these can form.

For example, the researchers have discovered that the ‘bone-like’ materials that were grown from bone cells from mouse skull and mouse bone marrow stem cells successfully mimicked many of the hallmarks of real bone, which include stiffness.

However, they found that the ‘bone-like’ material grown from mouse embryonic stem cells was much less stiff and less complex in its mineral composition when compared to the other materials, said an Imperial College release.

These results were published in Nature Materials.