Researchers are investigating a new surgical technique at the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. Doctors and scientists are attempting to discover whether stem cells grown from the body can be used in bone grafting. The goal is to use the body’s natural ability to heal and regenerate to aid in bone repair; this includes the jaw bone. This technique aims to replace more traditional bone grafting procedures.

To establish a graft source for the mouth, there are multiple bone grafting techniques already commonly used. An oral surgeon can pull a piece of bone from another location within the patient’s body (autogenous graft), utilize a cadaver (allograft graft) or an animal such as a cow (xenograft graft). The autogenous graft is a favored option because the surgeon is removing a piece of bone from another location in the patient’s body – such as the hip or chin – which tends to offer the patient the best results.

Dr. Joseph Borrelli, chair of orthopedics for Texas Health Arlington Memorial and Dr. Liping Tang, the bioengineering chair and professor at UT Arlington, are leading the research for natural stem cell growth to disregard alternatives for bone-graft harvesting altogether.

The process uses biodegradable polymer scaffolding material with bone morphogenetic protein, or BMP. Basically, this combination stimulates natural bone growth. So far, this method has only been performed on mice but when this engineered combination is inserted into the abdomen, it’s proven to attract stem cells. The study determined that that those stem cells produced bone and harbored healthy bone growth.

Drs. Tang and Borrelli hope this surgical development will not only reduce medical costs associated with grafting, but also reduce the risk of post-surgical complications. The patient’s cell material will remain inside the body, cutting down on medical cost and surgical time. The scaffolding material and protein combination will be created and then injected where the bone needs to grow. In addition, the patient will not have to experience any discomfort from an additional procedure to harvest bone.

Although this procedure is still ongoing and will undergo additional research and testing, it shows major promise as a medical advancement in bone grafting that will benefit both patients and doctors alike.

References: UT Arlington, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Researchers Looking To Create New Bone Tissue Generation Technique. tissue.php. Updated April 9, 2014. Accessed January 19, 2015.