From connective tissue to bones

April 30, 2009

Cartilage, bones and the internal walls of blood vessels can be created by using common connective tissue cells from human skin. Researchers in reconstructive plastic surgery at Linköping University have successfully manipulated these tissue cells to take on different shapes depending on the medium they have been cultivated in.


“This means that it will be much easier to produce autologous tissue, which is tissue created from the patient’s own body”, says Gunnar Kratz, Professor of Experimental and team leader for the research group.

The results of the group’s research are now published in three simultaneous scientific articles.

Bone, cartilage and are important components in reconstructive surgery, where damaged tissue needs to be recreated.  Minor fractures can heal spontaneously but for major bone damage and cartilage injuries there is the need to transplant tissue from other parts of the patient’s body.

Different strategies have been attempted to instead grow autologous tissue from , for example those present in bone marrow.  These cells, however, can be difficult to harvest, cultivate and store.  Compared to these cells connective from human skin has great advantages.  A small biopsy is often enough to collect a sufficient amount of cells.

“They are the ‘weed’ cells of the body, very easy to collect and cultivate into the cell type required.  They are also very suitable to use to create a personal cell bank”, Gunnar Kratz says.

Together with his colleagues he has developed a technique to grow bone-, cartilage- and endothelial-like cells from connective tissue cells.  Endothelial cells are the building blocks for the inner walls of blood vessels.  The technique has been used to create whole tissue in gelatine scaffolds and currently preparations are underway to transplant these complete tissue pieces into laboratory animals. 

In the studies the researchers collected connective tissue cells from healthy skin left over from breast and stomach plastic surgery and used fat stem cells to provide a comparison. To ensure that the transformation was not a result of the fusion of different cells, connective tissue cells from one cloned cell were also used.

The cell cultures were cultivated in four different environments optimised for bone, cartilage, fat and endothelium.  After two to four weeks the connective tissue cells had produced cartilage and bone mass to a greater extent than the fat stem cells had.  The cells showed several functions normally only present in the genuine cell type.  They could also be used to build three dimensional tissues, to create capillary networks etc.

The studies are the first in the world where the results have been able to show connective tissue cells from transformed into other so called phenotypes and creating other types of tissue.

“The dream is to be able to manipulate connective tissue cells in the human body to develop into specific cell types, for example to create bone cells for broken bones”, says Gunnar Kratz.

Provided by Linkoeping Universitet

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Enzyme identified as possible novel drug target for sickle cell disease, Thalassemia

July 19, 2018
Medical researchers have identified a key signaling protein that regulates hemoglobin production in red blood cells, offering a possible target for a future innovative drug to treat sickle cell disease (SCD). Experiments ...

Mice given metabolite succinate found to lose weight by turning up the heat

July 19, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions across the U.S. and Canada has found that giving the metabolite succinate to mice fed a high-fat diet prevented obesity. In their paper published in the journal Nature, ...

Supplement may ease the pain of sickle cell disease

July 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—An FDA-approved supplement reduces episodes of severe pain in people with sickle cell disease, a new clinical trial shows.

Scientists uncover DNA 'shield' with crucial roles in normal cell division

July 18, 2018
Scientists have made a major discovery about how cells repair broken strands of DNA that could have huge implications for the treatment of cancer.

Researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

July 18, 2018
Scientists from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute have developed a new bone engineering technique called Segmental Additive Tissue Engineering (SATE). The technique, described in a paper published ...

Researchers report protein kinase as the switch controlling obesity and diabetes

July 18, 2018
One of the research lines targeting the worldwide obesity epidemic is the manipulation of brown adipose tissue, a 'good' type of fat that burns lipids to maintain an appropriate body temperature. Researchers at the Centro ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.