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Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed biomimetic bone tissues that could one day provide new bone marrow for patients needing transplants.

 

Bone marrow transplants are used to treat patients with bone marrow disease. Before a transplant, a patient is first given doses of radiation, sometimes in combination with drugs, to kill off any existing stem cells in the patient’s bone marrow. This pre-treatment is meant to improve success of the transplant by clearing up space in the marrow, allowing donor cells to survive and grow without competition from the patient’s own cells. But this treatment often comes with harmful side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, loss of fertility and others.

 

To address these issues, a team led by bioengineering professor Shyni Varghese at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering has developed a bone-like implant that gives donor cells their own space to live and grow without competition, eliminating the need to wipe out the host’s pre-existing cells.

 

“We’ve made an accessory bone that can separately accommodate donor cells. This way, we can keep the host cells and bypass irradiation,” Varghese said.

 

Researchers developed bone tissues with functional bone marrow that can be filled with donor cells and implanted under the skin of mice. The donor cells survived for at least six months and supplied the mice with new blood cells. Varghese and her team published their work on May 8 in PNAS.

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