Practical Bioreactors to Supercharge Regenerative Medicine

When researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia talk about “practical bioreactors” to “supercharge” regenerative medicine, most people just give back one of those glassy eyed stares. After scientists break the PhD lingo down to English, and say they might be able to regrow bones by blasting cells with sound waves, that old proverbial light-bulb suddenly blinks on.

A practical approach

The key word to the whole concept is “practical.” Way down under at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, they managed to “regrow bone by firing high-frequency sound waves at stem cells.

Not only is that a “potential breakthrough in regenerative medicine,” their work turns out to be ethically above board too. Those controversialstem cells” don’t need to come from aborted babies because the patient has plenty of their own as extras.

The process they cooked up turns out to be “faster, more efficient, and cheaper than existing experimental methods of regrowing bone.” The old-school process involves “stem cells extracted from bone marrow.” Not only is it much more complicated, That’s a “painful and invasive process.” Ultrasound solves the whole problem in highly practical ways.

The sound waves cut the treatment time usually required to get stem cells to begin to turn into bone cells by several days,” RMIT co-author on the paper Amy Gelmi explains.

The paper her team published in “Small” details exactly how its better and easier to implement.

Their new method is a lot more practical than drawing bone marrow and “also doesn’t require any special ‘bone-inducing‘ drugs.” Besides that, “it’s very easy to apply to the stem cells.

Cheap and simple

One day soon, broken bones can be made good as new. Missing bones can be replaced. “Our device is cheap and simple to use, so could easily be upscaled for treating large numbers of cells simultaneously.” The practical reason for that is “effective tissue engineering,” coauthor and MRIT professor Leslie Yeo adds in a statement.

After stem cells are programmed to become bone cells, “the idea is that they can be locally injected or even coated onto an implant to regrow or grow entirely new bone.

Instead of painfully extracting stem cells from bone marrow, “the technique can utilize other cells sampled from the patient’s body, including fat tissue.” The magic comes in with a “small device” designed in the lab that “generates sound waves at frequencies over 10 megahertz.” You can’t hear that but bone cells do.

One practical experiment was conducted where they “shot these sound waves at stem cells for ten minutes a day for just five days.” It “significantly” turbocharged the bone growth process.

Dr. Yeo also goes on to explain that they “can use the sound waves to apply just the right amount of pressure in the right places to the stem cells, to trigger the change process.” They only have one more challenge to solve.

Scaling up the platform significantly for medical use.” They’re confidant it can be done, and soon. “Given the low costs,” the hopeful researchers think their process could eventually be turned into “practical bioreactors” to “supercharge regenerative medicine.

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