Keele University researchers are testing stem-cell injections that could help heal fractures and treat bone diseases.
The injectible stem cells can be controlled with a magnet.
Work on mice shows that once injected these immature cells can be guided to precisely where their help is needed and encouraged to grow new cartilage and bone.
The aim is to treat patients with injuries and arthritis, the UK National Stem Cell Network conference heard.
The treatment centres on stem cells - ''blank'' cells with the ability to turn into other cell types - drawn from a person's own bone marrow.
They are then coated with tiny magnetic particles before being injected into the body. A magnet, in the form of a cuff or a bracelet, is used to guide them to where they are needed.
The magnetic field also provides the trigger needed for the stem cells to turn into bone and cartilage.
Professor Alicia El Haj, working with Professor John Dobson, also of Keele University, says the technology, patented by Magnecell, could be tested in humans within five years, reports The BBC.
Professor Al Haj said: "The ultimate aim is to repair cartilage and bone. We have been able to grow new bone in mice. Now we will look at whether we can repair damaged sites in goats.
"We should be able to move to human trials within five years."