German scientists recreate natural bone marrow in lab

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BERLIN — Good news come in trickles, and at a slow pace, dedication and cost. But this one will sprinkle the drought in knowledge in the treatment of leukemia.

German scientists have developed a prototype of artificial bone marrow, which can simplify the treatment of leukemia in a few years, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology announced on Friday.

Scientists from KIT, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart and the University of Tubingen have recreated basic properties of the natural bone marrow artificially in a laboratory.

The haematopoietic stem cells provide replenishment of red blood cells or immune cells, so they can be used for the treatment of leukemia, in a way that the diseased cells of the patient are replaced with healthy haematopoietic stem cells from a matched donor.

The two types of bone marrow are medulla ossium rubra (red marrow), which consists mainly of hematopoietic tissue, and medulla ossium flava (yellow marrow), which is mainly made up of fat cells. Red blood cells, platelets, and most white blood cells arise in red marrow. Both types of bone marrow contain numerous blood vessels and capillaries.

At birth, all bone marrow is red. With age, more and more of it is converted to the yellow type; only around half of adult bone marrow is red. Red marrow is found mainly in the flat bones, such as the pelvis, sternum, cranium, ribs, vertebrae and scapulae, and in the cancellous (“spongy”) material at the epiphyseal ends of long bones such as the femur and humerus. Yellow marrow is found in the medullary cavity, the hollow interior of the middle portion of long bones. In cases of severe blood loss, the body can convert yellow marrow back to red marrow to increase blood cell production. (Source/Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, at present not every leukemia patient can find a matchable donor, so a simple solution to this problem would be to increase hematopoietic stem cells.

As the hematopoietic stem cells retain their stem cell properties only in their natural environment, the scientists need to create an environment that resembles the stem cell niche in the bone marrow.

To accomplish this goal, the German scientists created with synthetic polymer, a porous structure that mimics the structure of the spongy bone in the area of the hematopoietic bone marrow.

In the artificial bone marrow, the researchers directed isolated hematopoietic stem cells freshly from umbilical cord blood and incubated them for several days.

Analyzes with different methods showed that the cells actually proliferate in the newly developed artificial bone marrow.

Now the scientists can study the interactions between materials and stem cells in detail in the laboratory to find out how the behavior of stem cell is influenced and controlled by synthetic materials.

This knowledge could help to realize an artificial stem cell niche for the targeted increase of stem cells to treat leukemia patients in 10 to 15 years. (PNA/Xinhua)


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