Extracting bone-making cells from human fat gets easier

Targeting gene expression, researchers have developed a method for extracting a wide variety of potential bone-producing cells from human fat.

Within our fat live a variety of cells which have the potential to become bones. The adipose tissue, in theory, is a readily available reservoir for regenerative therapies such as bone healing if doctors can get enough of those cells and compel them to produce bone.

The method produced over twice the yield of potential bone-makers (nine percent) compared to their best application of another method: sorting cells based on surface proteins presumed to indicate that a cell is a stem cell (four percent), the researchers noted.

“Approaches like this allow us to isolate all the cells that are capable of doing what we want, whether they fit the archetype of what a stem cell is or not,” said lead author Hetal Marble from Brown University in the US.

The scientists developed a fluorescent tag that could find and identify cells expressing a gene called ALPL. Expression of the gene is an indicator of bone-making potential.

If the tag hits the target, it glows. A machine that detects the fluorescing light then separates out the ALPL-expressing cells.

The ALPL-expressing cells produced on average of more twice as much bone matrix (and as much as nine times more in some trials) during three weeks of subsequent cultivation than a similar-sized population of unsorted adipose tissue cells and almost four times more bone matrix than cells that don’t express ALPL.

The study appeared in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.

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