A research project carried out by Juliette van den Dolder at the University of Nijmegen has shown that new bone cells can be grown into bone fractures with the help of specially prepared titanium mesh and bone marrow cells. Researchers inserted a titanium mesh scaffold into a bone fracture in a rat. They allowed bone marrow cells to grow on this. This resulted in new bone growth being stimulated by the bone marrow cells. They found that bone marrow cells in combination with titanium mesh formed a good culture medium for new bone growth in the case of bone damage. This bone growth was further improved dynamically by the researchers by 'sowing' the cells onto the mesh that lies on a turning plate.
The researchers who tested three differently coated pieces of mesh for cell growth and bone mineral formation found that the mesh containing fibronectin, a bone protein that plays an important role in the growth of new bone, produced the best results. The researchers also tested a cell culture system called flow perfusion system. In this system, fluid containing nutrients and oxygen is pumped top-down through the mesh, whilst at the same time removing waste products. They found that with this system cell growth and bone mineral formation clearly increased.
Earlier, when the bone was damaged, the patient's own bone tissue was used to grow new bone, but usually, bone tissue is unavailable and there are often problems involved in obtaining it. Therefore, such an alternative method developed by Juliette van den Dolder to treat bone defects is of considerable significance. However, there are some more questions to be answered before the method is fully accepted for use. For instance, questions like whether the increase in cell growth and bone mineral formation could be further improved by adapting the flow perfusion system or whether altering the rate at which the fluid is pumped through the mesh could influence the cell growth, are yet be analysed. Also, all of the experiments described were carried out on rats. Thus, the next step would be the investigation of the effectiveness of the tested materials and methods on higher animals and human beings.