Scientists in Galway grow 3D bones in lab tests
Irish scientists have helped grow three-dimensional bone cells in the laboratory in a breakthrough development that could help "transform the lives" of patients.
It is hoped the discovery could in future be used to replace or repair damaged sections of bone, helping patients including landmine victims.
The scientists used technology originally developed to detect gravitational waves to generate tissue-engineered bone graft, the latest development in a technique known as 'nanokicking'.
Bone is the second most grafted tissue after blood and is used in reconstructive, maxillofacial and orthopaedic surgeries.
However, surgeons can currently harvest only limited amounts of living bone from the patient for use in graft, and bone from other donors is likely to be rejected by the body.
Instead, surgeons rely on inferior donor sources that contain no cells capable of regenerating bone, limiting the size of repairs they can effect.
Researchers from NUI Galway, alongside a team from the universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde and the West of Scotland, hope the new technique will prevent the problem of rejection.
Scientists have already used bone-growing technology to save a dog's leg from amputation and hope to begin human trials in around three years' time.
Matthew Dalby, professor of cell engineering at the University of Glasgow, is one of the lead authors of the paper, published in 'Nature Biomedical Engineering'.
"This is an exciting step forward for nanokicking, and it takes us one step further towards making the technique available for use in medical therapies," he said.
"We are especially excited by these developments as much of the work we're doing now is funded by Bobby Charlton's landmine charity Find a Better Way, which helps individuals and communities heal from the devastating impact of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
"Now that we have advanced the process to the point where it's readily reproducible and affordable, we will begin our first human trials around three years from now."