Bone (yellow), cartilage (blue) and marrow (red) are all present in a single stem cell derived from a human skeleton © Chan and Longaker et al

Newly identified stem cells could regrow bones

It may be possible to uncover the mechanisms that underlie tissue growth and regeneration.

Here’s something worth boning up on: researchers at Stanford University have identified and produced skeletal stem cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells – those that can grow into nearly all kinds of cells in the body – for the first time. The discovery could lead to treatments for a range of degenerative bone disorders or even enable us to grow new bones for reconstructive surgery following trauma, according to the team at Stanford.


Following on from work identifying skeletal stem cells in mice published three years ago, the Stanford team tracked down similar cells that are able to grow into bone and cartilage in human bone marrow. The team then went on to develop a method of growing these skeletal stem cells from induced human pluripotent stem cells.

The team now plans to investigate the differing regenerative properties of different species of vertebrate with an end goal of developing treatments for a broad spectrum of health conditions ranging from age-related diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis to non-healing skeletal injury, blood disorders and even cancer.

“By comparing the molecular and functional differences in specific types of stem cells between different species of vertebrates, it may be possible to uncover the mechanisms that underlie tissue growth and regeneration, and apply this understanding towards enhancing health and rejuvenation in humans,” said Charles Chan of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

This is an extract from issue 328 of BBC Focus magazine.

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328 bringing-back-the-neanderthal


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