Future potentials for using osteogenic stem cells and biomaterials in orthopedics.
Oreffo RO., Triffitt JT.
Ideal skeletal reconstruction depends on regeneration of normal tissues that result from initiation of progenitor cell activity. However, knowledge of the origins and phenotypic characteristics of these progenitors and the controlling factors that govern bone formation and remodeling to give a functional skeleton adequate for physiological needs is limited. Practical methods are currently being investigated to amplify in in vitro culture the appropriate autologous cells to aid skeletal healing and reconstruction. Recent advances in the fields of biomaterials, biomimetics, and tissue engineering have focused attention on the potentials for clinical application. Current cell therapy procedures include the use of tissue-cultured skin cells for treatment of burns and ulcers, and in orthopedics, the use of cultured cartilage cells for articular defects. As mimicry of natural tissues is the goal, a fuller understanding of the development, structures, and functions of normal tissues is necessary. Practically all tissues are capable of being repaired by tissue engineering principles. Basic requirements include a scaffold conducive to cell attachment and maintenance of cell function, together with a rich source of progenitor cells. In the latter respect, bone is a special case and there is a vast potential for regeneration from cells with stem cell characteristics. The development of osteoblasts, chondroblasts, adipoblasts, myoblasts, and fibroblasts results from colonies derived from such single cells. They may thus, theoretically, be useful for regeneration of all tissues that this variety of cells comprise: bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, tendons, and ligaments. Also relevant to tissue reconstruction is the field of genetic engineering, which as a principal step in gene therapy would be the introduction of a functional specific human DNA into cells of a patient with a genetic disease that affects mainly a particular tissue or organ. Such a situation is pertinent to osteogenesis imperfecta, for example, where in more severely affected individuals any improvements in long bone quality would be beneficial to the patient. In conclusion, the potentials for using osteogenic stem cells and biomaterials in orthopedics for skeletal healing is immense, and work in this area is likely to expand significantly in the future.