October 20 is “World Osteoporosis Day” designated for raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. This is a chronic progressive skeletal disease in which the density and structure of bone tissue is impaired. According to the Kazakhstani Association of Osteoporosis Doctors, every 6th Kazakhstani suffers from this disease. The disease leads to bone fragility and increased risk of fractures, which are the cause of disability. Annually, about 9 million fractures in the world are osteoporosis-associated.
Nazarbayev University scientists developed a new method of cell therapy, which will help accelerate the process of regeneration of bone tissue in fractures associated with osteoporosis. The results of this research were published in the scientific journal Bioengineering.
Studying bone regeneration, Nazarbayev University researchers identified two factors that are responsible for reducing bone density in osteoporosis. The first factor is the increased activity of osteoclasts – cells that dissolve mineral components and destroy collagen in bone tissue. The second factor is a decrease in the number of young cells – osteoblasts, which form and restore bone tissue.
The researchers used mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in their work, which can be isolated from the bone marrow and adipose tissue of an adult. MSCs, in turn, have the ability to differentiate into bone and cartilage cells.
“We modified MSCs using osteophilic polymer by membrane engineering. We then applied them in a new method of cell therapy to deliver cells directly to the site of bone damage. Thus, the number of osteoblasts is restored, and the activity of osteoclasts is reduced”, says Yuliya Safarova, a researcher at the Laboratory of Bioengineering and Regenerative Medicine, Center for Life Sciences, National Laboratory Astana.
For 4 and 24 weeks, scientists observed the effect of bone regeneration in fractures of the ulna in four groups of laboratory rats. The essence of the experiment was to trace the recovery of bone density after fractures during normal recovery and when polymer-modified MSCs were injected in different time periods.
“After the first month of the experiment, we noticed that the bone density was actively recovering in the experimental group compared to the control. To assess the long-term effect of this therapy, we performed a bone density analysis after another 24 weeks of the experiment. Compared to the control group, the introduction of polymer-modified MSCs allowed us to maintain the therapeutic effect for 5 months after the last injection”, continues Yuliya Safarova.
The scientists found that in animals who were injected polymer-modified MSC bone density recovered more quickly. Thus, after 4 weeks, bone density increased by 27.4%. In 24 weeks, it increased by 21.5%.
It is noteworthy that scientists aimed to study tissue regeneration during fractures and to prove the therapeutic value of polymer-modified MSCs. Now they are planning to conduct biosafety studies and start clinical trials.