Researchers at RMIT University in Australia have developed a method where stem cells can be used to help the body build new bone. This method is unique as it uses sound waves to stimulate the stem cells.
The challenge of using stem cells to heal bone fractures is to get large amounts of cells to grow exactly where they are needed, that is, where the bone is damaged. There are already experimental stem cell treatments to heal bone fractures, but it is a complicated process that requires advanced equipment.
It has also been challenging to scale up the production of stem cells. Also, as the stem cells used in these treatments come from the patient's spinal cord, extracting these cells is a painful process.
The research team has developed a method where high-frequency sound waves, above 10 MHz, can cause stem cells that come from fat cells to form bone cells instead. The only equipment needed is a chip that emits sound waves from one end to the stem cells at the other end.
The treated stem cells can then be injected directly into the bone fracture and begin to form bones to heal the injury.
In addition to the fact that the process is simpler and does not require expensive equipment, it is also faster than existing methods.
"The sound waves shortened the time it takes to get the stem cells to start producing bone cells by several days. This method also does not require any special 'bone-forming' drugs, and it is straightforward to apply to the stem cells", says Amy Gelmi, a researcher at RMIT University and one of the researchers behind the method, in a press release.
The researchers will now scale up the method so it can be used in healthcare.