An microscopic view of undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells.
Researchers said on Friday the breakthrough opened up new ways to
treat severe tissue damage and made the prospect of custom-made living
spares parts for humans a step closer to reality.
"There have been a couple of similar-sounding procedures before, but
these didn’t use the patient’s own stem cells that were first cultured
and expanded in laboratory and differentiated into bone tissue," said
Riitta Suuronen of the Regea Institute of Regenerative Medicine, part
of the University of Tampere.
She told a news conference the patient was recovering more quickly
than he would have if he had received a bone graft from his leg.
"From the outside nobody would be able to tell he has been through such a procedure," she said.
She added, the team used no materials from animals — preventing the
risk of transmitting viruses than can be hidden in an animal’s DNA, and
followed European Union guidelines.
Stem cells are the body’s master cells and they can be found
throughout the blood and tissues. Researchers have recently found that
fat contains stem cells which can be directed to form a variety of
Using a patient’s own stem cells provides a tailor-made transplant that the body should not reject.
Suuronen and her colleagues — the project was run jointly with the
Helsinki University Central Hospital — isolated stem cells from the
patient’s fat and grew them for two weeks in a specially formulated
nutritious soup that included the patient’s own blood serum.
In this case they identified and pulled out cells called mesenchymal
stem cells — immature cells than can give rise to bone, muscle or
When they had enough cells to work with, they attached them to a
scaffold made out of a calcium phosphate biomaterial and then put it
inside the patient’s abdomen to grow for nine months. The cells turned
into a variety of tissues and even produced blood vessels, the
The block was later transplanted into the patient’s head and
connected to the skull bone using screws and microsurgery to connect
arteries and veins to the vessels of the neck.
The patient’s upper jaw had previously been removed due to a benign
tumor and he was unable to eat or speak without the use of a removable
Suuronen said her team had submitted a report on the procedure to a medical journal to be reviewed.