Adding stem cells from human bone marrow to a broken diabetic bone enhances the repair process, increasing the strength of the newly formed bone, according to a laboratory-based study presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Dublin. The work could potentially lead to more effective treatments for broken bones.
Bones of diabetic people are known to be more fragile than non-diabetic people and take longer to heal after fracturing. What’s more, diabetic people are more likely to sustain fractures as a result of fall than non-diabetics as they often suffer from impaired vision and reduced sensitivity in their feet.
The research team at the National University of Galway, led by Dr Cynthia Coleman, are aiming to harness the reparative properties of stem cells to improve fracture repair in diabetic patients.
The researchers added human bone marrow stem cells from a non-diabetic donor to a bone fracture in laboratory pre-clinical studies. They found that stem cells healed the broken bone more efficiently than those that did not receive stem cells. In addition, the healed bones resulting from stem cell treatment were found to be significantly stronger and able to withstand more stress than those in the control group.
Dr Coleman and her group have developed a sensitive test to allow them to detect the location and number of the stem cells after they’ve been added; they report that the stem cells do not permanently integrate into the host tissue but instead produce signals that encourage the host’s own cells to heal the fracture more efficiently.
Dr Coleman has said, “this basic science study allows us to better understand the role of stem cells in fracture repair and potential use in treating diabetic patients.” Her future work will involve learning more about the role of stem cells in healing so that we can one day use them in the clinic.
“Stem cells represent an exciting potential for improving the treatment and lessening the pain and discomfort of diabetic people who break bones.”