Stem cell therapy rejuvenates old, brittle bones in osteoporosis model

March 17, 2016

Approximately a quarter of all Canadians will suffer a fracture because of weak bones (osteoporosis) in their lifetime, costing the health care system more than $2.3 billion each year1. Despite the huge burden of this disease, treatments for age-related osteoporosis are very limited.

But now, new research led by Drs. William Stanford (The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa) and John Davies (University of Toronto) is providing hope that one day stem cell injections may be able to rejuvenate and strengthen brittle bones and prevent fractures in people with this condition. In a mouse model of age-related osteoporosis, they found that a single intravenous injection of mesenchymal stem cells (extracted from bone marrow) could nearly double the rate of bone renewal and restore a healthy bone architecture. The results are published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine .

Researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and around the world are currently conducting human clinical trials of mesenchymal stem cell therapy for a number of other diseases, but these cells have never been clinically tested for osteoporosis before. Dr. Stanford and his colleagues are hoping to add bone scans onto some of these existing trials to further investigate the potential of this therapy before designing a trial specifically for people with age-related osteoporosis.

“We stumbled into the bone research field completely by chance a number of years ago, but we felt it was very important to pursue this because age-related osteoporosis takes a huge toll on people and the health-care system,” said Dr. Stanford, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Stem Cell Biology. “Obviously we have a lot more work to do, but I’m very excited by the potential that this research could one day help a lot of people.”

Full reference: Systemic Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Transplantation Prevents Functional Bone Loss in a Mouse Model of Age-Related Osteoporosis. Jeffrey Kiernan, Sally Hu, Marc D. Grynpas, John E. Davies, William L. Stanford. Stem Cells Translational Medicine. 2016;5:1–11

Funders: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada Research Chair

Related news releases from: University of Toronto, Stem Cells Translational Medicine

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