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Human Bone Disorder Reproduced In Mice

For the first time, scientists have re-created a unique human bone disease in a laboratory animal model. An international team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health and in Italy were able to remove cells from the bone marrow of patients with a genetic bone disorder, transplant the cells into mice, and grow human bone with the same type of abnormalities seen in the patients. The technique holds promise for creating animal models to study many forms of human bone disease, with the hope of discovering the underlying causes and developing novel treatments.

The success of the procedure, reported in the April 15th issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, lies in the special characteristics of cells in the bone marrow called stromal cells. The stromal cells have the unique ability to develop into a variety of tissues, including bone, cartilage, and the tissue framework that supports blood formation.

In previous studies, Dr. Pamela Gehron Robey and colleagues at the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) perfected a technique for using stromal cells to grow normal human bone in mice. Stromal cells taken from healthy human donors were grown in the laboratory, mixed with ceramic particles, then transplanted under the skin of immune-compromised mice, where they formed a capsule of new bone. The ceramic chips provided structural support for bone growth. The result was a replica of normal bone, consisting of areas of new bone formation surrounding a cavity of healthy marrow that has the cellular infrastructure needed to grow blood cells.

Dr. Gehron Robey, chief of NIDR's Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch, and Dr. Paolo Bianco, Professor of Pathology at the University of L'Aquila, Italy, coordinated an international research effort to adapt the principle of this technique to develop an animal model for a genetic disorder called McCune-Albright syndrome (MAS) starting from abnorm
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Contact: Wayne Little
littlew@od31.nidr.nih.gov
301-496-4261
NIH/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
15-Apr-1998


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