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Bone marrow helps bones to repair themselves

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Specially prepared titanium mesh and bone marrow cells have made it possible to allow new bone cells to grow in bone fractures. This was shown in a research project carried out by Juliette van den Dolder at the University of Nijmegen.

Researchers inserted a titanium mesh scaffold into a bone fracture in a rat. They allowed bone marrow cells to grow on this and the bone marrow cells stimulated new bone growth.

In combination with bone marrow cells, titanium mesh forms a good culture medium for new bone growth in the case of bone damage. The researchers improved this bone growth by dynamically 'sowing' the cells onto the mesh. In this technique the mesh lies on a turning plate. The researchers tested three differently coated pieces of mesh for cell growth and bone mineral formation.

The best result was obtained with mesh containing fibronectin. Fibronectin is a bone protein that plays an important role in the growth of new bone.

The researchers then tested a cell culture system, the so-called flow perfusion system. This system pumps fluid containing nutrients and oxygen top-down through the mesh, whilst at the same time removing waste products. With the flow perfusion system, cell growth and bone mineral formation clearly increased.

Normally the patient's own bone tissue is used to grow new bone where the bone is damaged. However, in general, insufficient bone tissue is available and there are often problems involved in obtaining it. Consequently there is a considerable demand for alternative methods. Juliette van den Dolder's doctoral research has described such an alternative method for the treatment of bone defects.

Further research is needed to answer some remaining questions. For example, it is not clear whether the increase in cell growth and bone mineral formation could be further improved by adapting the flow perfusion system. Also, altering the rate at which the fluid is pumped through the mesh might influence the cell growth. In addition to this, all of the experiments described were carried out on rats. The following stage will be to investigate the effectiveness of the tested materials and methods on higher animals and human beings as well.


For further information please contact Juliette van den Dolder (Department of Biomaterials, University of Nijmegen, can at present be contacted in Sweden) tel. +46 (0)40 321364, fax (in the Netherlands) +31 (0)24 3541971, e-mail: The defence of the doctoral thesis will take place on 21 February 2003. Ms Van den Dolder's supervisors are Prof. J.A. Jansen, Prof. P.H.M. Spauwen and Prof. A.G. Mikos.

This research was funded by the Technology Foundation STW and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

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