NYSCF Scientists Determine Best Material for Creating Bone Grafts from Stem Cells


In a new study published in Tissue Engineering, Part A, NYSCF Research Institute scientists led by NYSCF – Ralph Lauren Senior Principal Investigator Giuseppe Maria de Peppo, PhD, have identified a more effective and cost-efficient method for creating the scaffolds used to generate lab-grown bone using stem cells.

As we age, our bones get weaker. Most of us will encounter some sort of joint or bone complications later in life, and the number of bone defects resulting from disease or injury increases each year. One way to provide personalized care for such defects is through implantation of bone grafts engineered from a patient’s own stem cells.

To engineer human bone from stem cells, the cells must first be seeded into a scaffold that is designed in the size and shape of the defect that needs to be replaced. This scaffold is typically made from either human bone taken from a cadaver or from an animal alternative, like a cow. For bone to serve as a scaffolding material, it has to go through a decellularization process in which all cells are removed in order to avoid immune rejection. Once a patient’s stem cells are seeded into the scaffold, the scaffold is incubated in a bioreactor that shuttles in nutrients and removes waste. At the end, we get personalized, lab-grown bone.

Traditionally, making these scaffolds from human bone is hard because human tissue is expensive and difficult to obtain. However, animal bones have different properties from human bones, so it was believed that using them as a substitute material in a scaffold may not result in grafts of the same quality.

In this study, NYSCF scientists decided to challenge this belief by comparing scaffolds made from human bone to those made from cow bone. The researchers first created two types of scaffolds from corresponding locations of trabecular bone (the porous internal part of a bone), and then assessed their structure, composition, and functionality.

Before cells were seeded into the scaffolds, the team found that each showed a similar structure and composition, with the only difference being larger pores in the human bone. After cell seeding and incubation in the bioreactor, the researchers observed that both scaffolds equally supported cell viability and bone formation.

Since cow bone is cheaper and more widely available than human bone and proved to be just as effective, cow bone looks to be a promising alternative in future bone graft development for regenerative medicine.

“Knowing that scaffolds made from cow bone will work as well as those made from human bone will save researchers a lot of time and money on the route from bench to bedside,” says NYSCF researcher Dr. Martina Sladkova, the study’s first author. “Finding the best materials is critical for engineering effective bone grafts, and our study brought us one step closer to this goal.”