Growing plants can be tricky enough, but growing bones seems altogether impossible. Yet that’s exactly what scientists at Columbia University recently accomplished. A group led by Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic recently used stem cells and liposuctioned fat to grow — yes, grow — actual human bones. Once the process is perfected, it could eliminate the need for titanium bone replacements and painful bone grafts.

To create a particular bone, researchers use digital images to direct a machine to carve a bone replica, or scaffold. Scientists place the scaffold in a bioreactor and add in human cells from bone marrow or liposuctioned fat. Adding in oxygen, growth hormones, sugar and nutrients allow the cells to flourish, eventually growing into bone. By using this process, scientists can create an exact copy of any bone in the human body.

The lab breakthrough is a huge step forward for bone-replacement procedures. Being able to grow any bone from actual human tissue could eliminate the need for bone grafts, a painful procedure that requires harvesting bone samples from other parts of the body. Growing human bones could also replace titanium bone implants, which aren’t as biocompatible as human tissue.

Researchers say they’ll test the grown bones in animals and a few humans, and the process may be used in hospitals within the next decade.

+ Columbia University

Via Popular Science