Synthetic silicates, which are built of simple or complex salts of silicic acids, have found application in numerous commercial and industrial areas. They are used in food additives, glass and ceramic filler materials and anti-caking agents. Now a research team from Brigham and Women´s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts has found that synthetic silicate nanoplatelets, or layered clay, can cause stem cells to become bone cells with no additional bone-inducing stimuli.
Dr Ali Khademhosseini, senior author of the study, noted that injuries and degenerative conditions are becoming more common as the population ages. This is in turn driving demand for therapies to repair damaged tissues. There is a particular need for new materials capable of directing stem cell differentiation and promoting the formation of functional tissue. Silicate nanoplatelets could be the answer sought by medicine and biotechnology, Dr Khademhosseini added.
First study author Akhilesh Gaharwar said the preliminary results had led the BWH team to believe that the highly bioactive nanoplatelets could be used to develop various devices. Some examples are injectable tissue repair matrixes, bioactive fillers or therapeutic agents designed to produce specific cellular responses in bone-related tissue engineering. Gaharwar added that researchers would carry out mechanistic studies in the future to get a better understanding of the underlying pathways which determine favorable responses. This will in turn allow scientists to gain a better insight into what materials strategies will be best suited to promote improvement in construct performance and ultimately reduce the length of time patients need to recover, Gaharwar concluded.