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Stem cell therapy could reverse age-related osteoporosis, Canadian study suggests

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A single injection of stem cells could one day be enough to restore normal bone structure in patients with age-related (type-II) osteoporosis, according to a study published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Unlike post-menopausal (type-I) osteoporosis, both women and men are equally at risk of developing the age-related (type-II) form of this condition. With age-related osteoporosis, the inner structure of the bone diminishes, leaving the bone thinner, less dense, and losing its function.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital found that an injection of stem cells reversed bone loss in mice.

Professor William Stanford, senior author of the study, had demonstrated in previous research a causal effect between mice that developed age-related osteoporosis and low or defective mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in these animals.

“We reasoned that if defective MSCs are responsible for osteoporosis, transplantation of healthy MSCs should be able to prevent or treat osteoporosis,” said Stanford, who is a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and Professor at the University of Ottawa.

To test that theory, the researchers injected osteoporotic mice with MSCs from healthy mice.

Announcing the results of the study, the University of Toronto said that stem cells are capable of dividing and changing into all the different cell types in the body. Able to become bone cells, MSCs can also be transplanted from one person to another without the need for matching and without being rejected.

Six months after the injection (a quarter of the life span of mice), the osteoporotic bone had given way to healthy, functional bone.

“We had hoped for a general increase in bone health,” said John E. Davies, Professor at the Faculty of Dentistry and the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto, and a co-author of the study. “But the huge surprise was to find that the exquisite inner ‘coral-like´ architecture of the bone structure of the injected animals — which is severely compromised in osteoporosis — was restored to normal.”

The results point to the possibility that as little as one dose of stem cells might offer long-term relief for osteoporosis patients.

The researchers are now conducting ancillary trials with elderly patients in the United States. If these show improvements in bone health, larger dedicated trials could follow within the next five years

.    http://media.utoronto.ca/media-releases/stem-cell-therapy-reverses-age-related-osteoporosis-in-mice/