When a bone is broken, in time the body will usually produce new bone cells to ensure that the fracture heals neatly. However, complex fractures such as those sustained in a serious accident will not heal in this way. They require more new bone tissue than the body can produce unaided. The MIRA Institute’s Tissue Regeneration department, led by Prof. Clemens van Blitterswijk, leads the way in developing new technologies which will artificially stimulate bone growth.
Ceramic materials have long been used in medicine to support the growth of new bone tissue. MIRA researchers are responsible for a new type of ceramic which, once implanted into the body, has a remarkable effect. New bone tissue is generated much faster than in any previous technique, and at precisely the desired location. Exactly why this happens is as yet unknown and will be the subject of further research. However, the researchers suspect that the new ceramic material attracts nearby stem cells and somehow 'encourages' them to form the desired bone cells.
A successful trial of the material in oral surgery reveals how valuable it is likely to be. Often, a patient who has lost one or more teeth does not have enough bone in the jaw to support a dental implant. The body will not automatically produce its own replacement bone cells at this location. However, following the insertion of a ceramic 'stent', a new layer of usable bone develops reasonably quickly.
The material is to be produced by Progentix, a company based in Bilthoven, the Netherlands. Progentix has signed a licensing agreement with a major American corporation which will market the invention worldwide.
We can offer yet another example of how advanced the Tissue Regeneration department's research now is. In 2009, researcher Dr Jojanneke Jukes was the first person in the world to successfully grow bone material from stem cells taken from mouse embryos. Embryonic stem cells are the basic 'all-purpose' cells which develop within a few days of the egg's fertilization. At this stage they have no specific function but can go on to develop into any type of body cell. The department's use of embryonic stem cells is subject to very strict ethical conditions. It is hoped that stem cell technology will give scientists a better understanding of how complex bone fractures can be repaired more effectively in future.
De formation of bone tissue (light) on ceramic (dark).