A prototype of artificial bone marrow has now been developed by scientists, which will be used to reproduce hematopoietic stem cells.
The porous structure developed by the scientists of KIT, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, and Tubingen University, possesses essential properties of natural bone marrow and can be used for the reproduction of stem cells at the laboratory.
This might facilitate the treatment of leukemia in a few years.
Blood cells, such as erythrocytes or immune cells, are continuously replaced by new ones supplied by hematopoietic stem cells located in a specialized niche of the bone marrow.
Hematopoietic stem cells can be used for the treatment of blood diseases, such as leukemia. The affected cells of the patient are replaced by healthy hematopoietic stem cells of an eligible donor.
However, not every leukemia patient can be treated in this way, as the number of appropriate transplants is not sufficient. This problem might be solved by the reproduction of hematopoietic stem cells.
The stem cell niche is a complex microscopic environment having specific properties. The relevant areas in the bone are highly porous and similar to a sponge.
This three-dimensional environment does not only accommodate bone cells and hematopoietic stem cells but also various other cell types with which signal substances are exchanged. Moreover, the space among the cells has a matrix that ensures certain stability and provides the cells with points to anchor. In the stem cell niche, the cells are also supplied with nutrients and oxygen.
The newly developed artificial bone marrow that possesses major properties of natural bone marrow can now be used by the scientists to study the interactions between materials and stem cells in detail at the laboratory.
The study was published in the Biomaterials journal.