The Skeletal Program at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (RMI) is pioneering the use of adult and induced pluripotent stem cells from the RMI Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Core Facility to regenerate bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and intervertebral discs. This research holds the potential to address a tremendous clinical need in orthopedic medicine.
Spine disorders affect the majority of the U.S. population. Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in adult Americans; more than 80 percent will experience an episode during their lives. Ten million Americans suffer from osteoporosis; roughly half of all women and a quarter of men older than 50 will sustain an osteoporosis-related fracture.
Efficient bone and disc repair is a major problem in human health. There is currently no therapeutic treatment that can reverse the process of disc degeneration. When spine fractures occur in patients with osteoporosis, treatment options are limited because open surgery with implants often fails.
Stem cells offer the promise of enabling us to replace tissue lost due to trauma or degeneration. After isolating adult stem cells from bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue, we activate unique genes within the cells that trigger the formation of the desired tissue. These modified stem cells are then injected into the injured area. Our stem cell technologies have been proven effective in repairing complex fractures in the vertebrae, skull, jaws, and long bones, as well as torn tendons and injured intervertebral discs.
ON THE HORIZON
Critical to the success of stem cell therapies is monitoring the cells’ survival and distribution in the body after transplantation. We are developing novel imaging techniques that will enable us to track these transplanted stem cells effectively. We are focused on utilizing adult stem cells called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for rapid fracture repair and disc regeneration, significantly shortening hospitalization time and offering a minimally invasive solution for osteoporosis and low back pain. As aged patients have aged stem cells, another approach is to first generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from older patients within the iPSC Core Facility and then differentiate these iPS to bone, cartilage, and other skeletal tissues.