By the Price of Business
A research team in New York City says that they may have found the key to restoring bone and correcting dysfunctional bone tissue. Bone replacement has long been a difficult challenge in the medical field partly due to the wide variety of issues that can cause bone loss and dysfunction. EpiBone.com CEO, Nina Tandon, says her company’s latest breakthrough may make these problems a thing of the past.
Promising Procedures of the Past Have Fallen Short
Many health issues ranging from cancer to automobile accidents can cause a person to lose their bone or compromise the muscular-skeletal system. As a result, there are over two million bone transplant procedures performed every year that total $5+ billion in medical expenses. As with many implants, bone from a donor is often seen as an outside entity and rejected by the body. When this occurs, it can result in defective transplants or infection.
Until recently, autographing was the only other viable option; however, it too can be fraught with difficulties. After an autograph, when healthy bone from one area of the patient’s body is transplanted to another, there is a strong possibility that the graph won’t take. When this occurs, more surgeries may be needed to correct new problems at the site where the donor bone was removed. This procedure can be particularly problematic in growing children.
While advancements in bone grafting for spine fusion have shown promise, there is still a large void to fill. Fortunately, for the millions of people worldwide affected by bone disease and injury, a better solution could soon be available.
EpiBone Cuts to the Cellular Level of Bone Creation
EpiBone is taking a different approach to bone replacement. The startup is in the process of producing technology that will grow bone in a laboratory using a patient’s own stem cells and 3D printing.
Ms. Tandon explained that the process begins by taking a 3D X-ray of the patient’s body. With that X-ray, her team is able to create a custom 3D scaffold of the bone that needs to be replaced. They then take a fat sample that is used to extract stem cells. These stem cells are then infused with the scaffold and put into a bioreactor growth chamber. The bioreactor replicates conditions within the human body where bone tissue naturally grows.
As long as the conditions are exactly right, the stem cells will transform into osteoblasts, a type of bone-growing cell. The osteoblasts colonize in the scaffold creating live bone tissue. The entire process from stem cell extraction to the creation of a full bone takes approximately three weeks.
EpiBone hopes that because the bone is created using the patient’s own cells the likelihood for rejection will be much lower. To date they have successfully replaced bones in animals, however, human testing has yet to be conducted.
Collaboration is the Key to Solving Medical Mysteries
The rapid advancement of technology and communication is making the breakthroughs of companies like EpiBone possible. Scientists can use video calling to converse with one another face-to-face. There is better infrastructure for gathering and recording data. Specialized laboratory movers are able to transport medical materials between biological storage facilities so that scientists in different states and countries can work on the same treatments even though they are miles apart.
The ability for these bright minds to come together is nearly as important as the research and testing that’s being done in the labs. Ms. Tandon herself noted that EpiBone’s work is possible only because of the breakthroughs in stem cell research at other laboratories throughout the world. She hopes that her team’s work in regenerative medicine will lead to further discoveries and applications in more than just the medical field.