Scientist Grows Jaw Bone From Adult Stem Cells

A Columbia scientist has become the first to grow a complex, full-size bone from human adult stem cells.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, reports that her team grew a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) from stem cells derived from bone marrow. Her work is reported in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science this month.

The TMJ has been widely studied as a tissue-engineering model because it cannot be generated easily, if at all, by current methods,” says Vunjak-Novakovic, whose co-authors include Warren L. Grayson, then a post-doctoral student in her lab and now an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. Around 25 percent of the population suffers from TMJ disorders—including those who suffer from cancer, birth defects, trauma and arthritis—which can cause joint deterioration. Because the TMJ is such a complex structure, it is not easily grafted from other bones in a patient’s body. “The availability of personalized bone grafts engineered from the patient’s own stem cells would revolutionize the way we currently treat these defects,” she says.

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