Many people spend their time exercising and dieting to get rid of their fat, but stem cells hiding in those extra pounds could soon be used by doctors to heal injuries to tissues like muscle and bone. In the May issue of Nature Biotechnology, Michael Longaker and colleagues show that fat stem cells transplanted into a 4-millimeter skull defect in mice will form new bone and repair the skeletal defect.
Scientists have discovered in recent years that fat stem cells can be coaxed into becoming bone, cartilage, muscle or nerve cells. Now, Longaker and colleagues have demonstrated the therapeutic use of fat stem cells, repairing a bone defect that is too large to heal by itself. The stem cells were induced to become bone cells by seeding them into a scaffold that contained apatite, a chemical that is found naturally in the matrix of bone.
Fat stem cells represent an especially promising source of cells for tissue engineering because there is an abundant supply and the cells divide rapidly in culture.
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