Skeletal Program

Faculty

Dan Gazit, PhD
Zulma Gazit, PhD
Wafa Tawackoli, PhD

Mission

Human stem cells, isolated from bone marrow, home to a fractured and osteoporotic vertebra.

The Skeletal Program at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute is pioneering the use of adult stem cells and iPSCs to regenerate bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and intervertebral discs. Our mission is to develop stem cell therapies and technologies for skeletal disorders due to trauma or degeneration.

The Skeletal Program is divided into several project areas:

  • osteoporosis-related vertebral compression fractures
  • craniofacial bone loss
  • segmental bone defects in long bones
  • schaphoid nonunion with avascular necrosis
  • intervertebral disc regeneration
  • noninvasive methods to diagnose discogenic pain



Focus

The Skeletal Program isolates adult stem cells from bone marrow or adipose tissue, and then matures these cells into the desired cell type for injection into an injured area. This stem cell technology has already proven effective in repairing complex fractures in the vertebrae, skull, jaws, and long bones, as well as torn tendons and injured intervertebral discs.

Osteoporosis-related vertebral compression fractures account for approximately 700,000 injuries and billions of healthcare dollars in the United States each year. Patients with an osteoporosis-related vertebral compression fracture have a deceased number of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), or dysfunctional MSCs, or both.

Most recently, the Skeletal Program theorized that injection of MSCs, combined with parathyroid hormone (PTH, which is already approved by the FDA for the treatment of osteoporosis), could be an effective therapy for the treatment of multiple fractures.
This research has shown that in animals with osteoporosis and vertebral fractures treated with intravenous injections of MSCs and PTH, we could detect enhanced MSC homing to the fracture sites, leading to rapid bone repair.

Our next step in this research is to conduct clinical trials that utilize MSCs for rapid fracture repair and disc regeneration. Should this treatment protocol prove successful, it could significantly shorten hospitalization time and offer a minimally invasive solution for osteoporosis and its related fragility fractures.
 


Collaborative Research

The Skeletal Program, based in the Gazit Laboratory, is submitting grants and publishing data for the use of stem cell therapy for scaphoid nonunion, iPSCs in disc regeneration, and stem cell treatment for craniofacial and long bone regeneration. We are also developing novel imaging techniques to track the fate and study the effectiveness of transplanted stem cells, in addition to using these novel imaging techniques as a noninvasive method of diagnosing human discogenic pain.

This research involves collaboration with a number of departments at Cedars-Sinai, including imaging and reconstructive and orthopedic surgery, as well as other national and international institutions.

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