Bone research

Scientists have developed a new self-structuring model of bone tissue that simulates the architecture of real bone for the first time – a potential for future bone defect replacement, which can make a vast difference to a patient’s life.

Growing bones in the laboratory

The research team, led by Professor Liam Grover, Director of the Healthcare Technologies Institute, Dr Alexandra Iordachescu, Research Fellow, University of Birmingham, and Dr Phillippa Hulley, University of Oxford, highlight the systems’ great potential for future transplantation and bone defect replacement. The project, funded by the National Centre for the Replacement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), also supports the reduction of the number of animals used for musculoskeletal research.

Challenges with bone regeneration

Recreating bone tissue in vitro (a process performed or taking place in a test tube, culture dish, or elsewhere outside a living organism), has been challenging to date because of its structural complexity and continuous remodelling. However, the new model simulates the construction of real bone for the first time by taking cells and putting them into a culture system that allows the cells to make, not only simple bones, but multi-layered constructions that are similar to tissues in the body.

Responsive bone constructs

The cells are able to produce mature bone over extended periods of time – with the possibility to grow in excess of a year. This time scale means that the bone constructs are responsive to a range of studies. Preliminary experiments by the team have shown that they can be used for screening novel compounds that might influence the ossification process - a study to understand normal bone development and repair as well as bone disorders.

The full paper ‘An in vitro model for the development of mature bone containing an osteocyte network’ was published in Advanced Biosystems in January 2018.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Alexandra Iordachescu, Research Fellow: