Scientists may be one step closer to a breakthrough that uses stem cells to replace damaged skull and facial bones in patients who experience a head trauma or undergo cancer surgery requiring repair and reconstructive surgery.
Researchers have discovered and isolated stem cells capable of repairing these bones in mice. The research, led by Takamitsu Maruyama and the research team at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., could also help patients born with a skull deformity known as craniosynostosis, which can lead to developmental delays and pressure on the brain.
In the study, scientists investigated the role of the Axin2 gene in bone formation and regeneration. They also examined a specific mutation that causes craniosynostosis in mice. Their finding show that stem cells involved in skull formation are contained within this cell population. These cells are specificto the bones in the head and are very different from other stem cells involved in the formation of the bones in the legs and other parts of the body.
Tests to uncover these cells could also help physicians detect bone diseases caused by stem cell abnormalities, according to the researchers.
The research was published Feb. 1 in the journal Nature Communications.