Characterization of mesenchymal stem cell differentiation and self-renewal in the context of an in vivo model of bone regeneration

Stem cells are normally located in bone marrow, but when grown in the appropriate environment, they have the unique potential to transform into and generate several different types of cells in the body. Many medical researchers believe stem cells have the potential to revolutionize medicine, enabling doctors to repair specific tissues or to grow organs. However, the processes that control their development are not fully understood at present. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are derived from adult bone marrow and have been shown to specifically differentiate into cells of connective tissues, such as ligament, tendon and bone. Due to the relatively recent identification of MSCs, there is still much debate about the basic mechanisms that underlie MSC physiology. There have been several reports to indicate that MSCs can contribute to bone healing; however whether this effect is sustained through the long-term has yet to be determined. Aaron Joe’s research focus is to further current understanding of MSCs and to explore the potential for MSC-based therapies in clinical regenerative medicine. He is investigating whether combining MSCs with a new biomaterial can create a long-lasting source of bone cells that, when transplanted into diseased bone, will result in complete and sustained healing of bone defects. Aaron hopes his research will provide insight into the contribution of transplanted MSCs to bone healing. Specifically his work may lead to the development of prototypic regenerative therapy for severe bone loss associated with replacement hip surgery.