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Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 00:01 GMT 01:01 UK
Human bone grown outside body
Electron microscope image
The bone glass under the microscope
Scientists have successfully grown human bone cells outside the body.

They hope the work will eventually lead to new treatments for bone fractures and the crippling bone disease osteoporosis.

A team from Hammersmith and Chelsea & Westminster Hospitals in London used a glass-like material which allows bone cells to grow and bond with each other quickly.


This treatment is only short step away from becoming clinical practice

Professor Julia Polak, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
In the future, researchers hope that the glass - enriched with bone cells and in liquid form - would be injected into patients with complex fractures to accelerate the healing process.

Professor Julia Polak, and her team in the Tissue Engineering Centre at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, found that a certain type of glass ceramic - made up of silicon, calcium and phosphorous - acts as a scaffold for the bone cells to cling to and as a material to bind existing bone to the new cells.

Already in use

The glass is already in use in orthopaedic and dental surgery to fill holes and mend fractures, but combined with an individual's human bone cells greatly accelerates the healing process and creates a stronger bond.

Professor Polak, director of the Imperial College Centre for Tissue Engineering, said: "This discovery is a significant step forward in the fight against osteoporosis and in the development of better treatment for bone injuries.

"As the glass has already been approved for use in humans, this treatment is only a short step away from becoming clinical practice.

"Our challenge now lies in developing the material further to cut down on bacterial infection and to understand how we can combine our recent genetic findings to co-ordinate bone cell growth and differentiation to optimise the healing process within the body."

The National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) welcomed the research.

A spokeswoman said: "We look forward to further studies investigating the potential role of bone cell growth in the management of the disease."

The research is published in the journal Calcified Tissue International.

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See also:

24 Aug 99 | Medical notes
Osteoporosis
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