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There are over 200 bones in an adult human skeleton, ranging in size from a couple of millimeters in length to well over a foot. How these bones form and how they are repaired if injured varies, and has posed a challenge for many researchers in the field of regenerative medicine.
Two processes involved with human skeletal development help all the bones in our body form and grow. These processes are called intramembranous and endochondral ossification, IO and EO respectively. While they are both critical, IO is the process responsible for the formation of flat bones, and EO is the process that forms long bones like femurs and humeri.
Processes - Stem - Cells - MSCs - Growth
For both processes, generic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are needed to trigger the growth of new bone. Despite this similarity, IO is significantly easier to recreate in the lab since MSCs can directly differentiate, or become specialized, into bone-forming cells without taking any additional steps.
However, this relative simplicity comes with limitations. To circumvent the issues associated with IO, the UConn Health team set out to develop an engineered extracellular matrix that uses hydrogels to guide and support the formation of bone through EO.
Studies - Matrix - Designs - Ossification - Bone
"Thus far, very few studies have been focused on matrix designs for endochondral ossification to regenerate and repair long bone," says Nukavarapu, who holds joint appointments in the departments of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering. "By developing a hybrid hydrogel combination, we were able to form an engineered extracellular matrix that could support cartilage-template formation."
Nukavarapu notes that vascularization is the key in segmental bone defect repair and regeneration. The main problem with IO-formed bone is caused by a lack of blood vessels, also called vascularization. This means that IO isn't capable of regenerating enough bone tissue to be applied to large bone defects that result from trauma or degenerative...
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