Artificial Human Bone Marrow Created – Could Lead to Endless Blood Supply

December 24, 2008

Ann Arbor, Michigan (ChattahBox) — Scientists in a University of Michigan laboratory have created an artificial bone marrow that can continuously make red and white blood cells.

The artificial marrow is not designed to be put into a body. Instead, it operates only in the lab. According to Nicholas Kotov, a U-M professor heading up the project, “The substance grows on a 3-D scaffold that mimics the tissues supporting bone marrow in the body. This is the first successful artificial bone marrow. It has two of the essential functions of bone marrow. It can replicate blood stem cells and produce B cells. The latter are the key immune cells producing antibodies that are important to fighting many diseases.”

Blood stem cells give rise to blood as well as several other types of cells. B cells, a type of white blood cell, battle colds, bacterial infections, and other foreign or abnormal cells including some cancers.

The scaffolds are made out of a transparent polymer that nutrients can easily pass through. scientists molded the polymer with tiny spheres ordered like billiard balls. Then, they dissolved the spheres to leave the perfect geometry of pores in the scaffold. The scaffolds were then seeded with bone marrow stromal cells and osteoblasts, another type of bone marrow cell.

This development could lead to simpler pharmaceutical drug testing, closer study of immune system defects and a continuous supply of blood for transfusions.

To determine whether the substance behaves like real bone marrow, the scientists implanted it in mice with immune deficiencies. The mice produced human immune cells and blood vessels grew through the substance.

A full paper describing the technology called “In vitro analog of human bone marrow from 3D scaffolds with Biomimetic inverted colloidal crystal geometry” appears in the journal Biomaterials. The applications of this advance are nearly boundless, possibly replacing the need to donate blood. Look for this breakthrough to be a Nobel Prize candidate next year.


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