UT Arlington and Texas Health
Arlington Memorial Hospital are investigating whether bone grown from the
body’s own stem cells can replace traditional types of bone grafting.
Dr. Liping Tang, left, bioengineering chair and professor, and Dr. Joseph Borrelli, chair of orthopedics for Texas Health Arlington Memorial, are lead investigators of the research project studying whether bone tissue can be created from a patient's own stem cells.
The process, which has been successful in
previous lab experiments, uses biodegradable polymer scaffolding material and
bone morphogenetic protein, or BMP, which was inserted into the abdomen of mice
to attract stem cells that in turn produced bone. BMPs are proteins known to
promote bone growth. The research is detailed in a new paper, “Tissue Engineering
Bone Using Autologous Progenitor Cells in the Peritoneum,” published by the online journal PLoS One.
Liping Tang, UT Arlington
bioengineering chair and professor, and Dr. Joseph Borrelli, chair of
orthopedics for Texas Health Arlington Memorial, co-authored the paper and are
lead investigators of the research project.
Tang said the process will allow
surgeons to establish a “mini-bioreactor” in a patient’s own body. Scientists
determined that the abdomen of a mouse effectively mimics the traumatic and
foreign body environmental response that takes place during various bone repair
procedures in humans. Bone tissue can be generated in a few days through the
process, he said, rather than the weeks or months existing processes take in a
“This research will help us to formalize
a specific type of scaffolding mixture that could eliminate the use of current
bone grafting techniques,” Borrelli said.
The procedure could help with open bone
fractures, osteomyelitis, fractures that fail to heal, congenital
malformations, tumors and, in a more general sense, perhaps osteoporosis.
The goal is to use the body’s own
healing capacity in bone repair, Borrelli said. For instance, today if a
patient suffers from a bone defect or complex tibia fracture, a surgeon may
perform an iliac crest bone graft, taking bone from the pelvis.
During the bone graft procedure, the
surgeon uses a mechanism that scrapes or shaves bone from the pelvis. The bone
shavings are then placed directly into the defect or combined with other
proteins. If successful, the research involving Borrelli and Tang will
eliminate the grafting technique altogether.
Borrelli said the current grafting
procedure has a 25 percent complication rate. He said the new procedure will help
curtail the complication rate associated with bone grafting and reduce medical
“In the future, a physician will be able
to inject the scaffolding material with the ideal protein into the area where
the patient’s bone needs to grow or repair, and the patient’s cells will never
have to leave the body,” Borelli said. “It will cut down on cost. It will cut
down on surgery time. It will enhance patient comfort, too.”
Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT
Arlington College of Engineering, said the collaboration between the hospital
and the university is the kind of collaboration that can lead to innovation in
“Partners like Texas Health Arlington
Memorial keep our researchers focused on goals that will help people,”
Behbehani said. “The work by Dr. Tang and Dr. Borrelli holds the promise of a
medical advancement that can save patients time and money and improve
The research team said the process could
become an outpatient procedure in the future.
Texas Health Arlington Memorial is funding
$90,000 to support further research on this and other clinically relevant
projects. This money will also pay for a doctoral student in Tang’s lab.
“We couldn’t think of a better
collaborative project to be a part of,” said Kirk King, Texas Health Arlington
Memorial president. “By working with talented individuals at UT Arlington,
we’re helping advance science with the ultimate goal of enhancing health care
to improve an individual’s quality of life. It’s a challenging task but one
we’ll be honored to see come to fruition.”
The University of Texas at Arlington
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and
the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The
Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh
fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News &
World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate
diversity. Visit www.uta.edu to
learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.
Texas Health Resources or
Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital is a 369-bed acute-care,
full-service medical center serving Arlington and the surrounding communities
since 1958. The hospital’s services include comprehensive cardiac care, women’s
services, orthopedics, an advanced imaging center and emergency services. Texas
Health Arlington Memorial is an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas
Health Resources system. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Arlington.