Bone Marrow-Derived Stem Cells Aid Bone Healing

Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMDMSCs) can be genetically modified in culture and subsequently used in live horses to enhance healing of bone defects, according to Colorado State University (CSU) researchers.

"BMDMSCs are 'flexible' cells that have the capacity to become one of a variety of connective tissue cell types, including bone cells (osteoblasts). BMDMSCs can be aspirated from a horse, expanded (grown) in cell culture, then used in the same horse to enhance bone healing," relayed Laurie Goodrich, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, an assistant professor in equine lameness and surgery at CSU.

Specifically, BMDMSCs may be genetically modified to produce growth factors called bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) that increase the rate of bone formation and maturation. The ultimate goal is to place these cells in a bone defect to lead to an increase in mechanical strength of bone.

Preliminary studies have found that BMP-2 and BMP-7 could be particularly useful in bone healing.

The research team genetically modified BMDMSCs by adding the genes for BMP-2, BMP-7, or both BMP-2 and -7 together. The stem cells were then assessed daily to evaluate the impact of the BMP genes on the transformation of the cells into osteoblasts.

Key findings of the study were that:

  • Over-expression (high production) of BMP-2 appeared to be most beneficial to BMDMSCs undergoing differentiation to osteoblasts; and,
  • Serial measurements of BMP levels suggest that cells should be transferred to the bone defect between four and eight days after genetic modification, when the highest levels of BMP are secreted.

Currently, the research team at CSU's Orthopedic Research Center is working on perfecting the genetic modification of these cells. Goodrich and her colleagues hope to apply these cells in research horses within the next year. The study, "Osteoblastic differentiation of human and equine adult bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells when BMP-2 or BMP-7 homodimer genetic modification is compared to BMP-2/7 heterodimer genetic modification in the presence and absence of dexamethasone," is scheduled to be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.

The abstract is currently available on PubMed.

Study co-authors were R.S. Carpenter, L.R. Goodrich, D.D. Frisbie, J.D. Kisiday, B. Carbone, C.W. McIlwraith, C.J. Centeno, and C. Hidaka.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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