Brussels, 31 Jan 2006
An international team led by scientists at the University of York has launched an EU funded project aimed at making forms of bone from blood products.
The team comprises researchers from Denmark, Germany, Portugal and the UK, who are investigating cord blood stem cells which are used by the human body in repairing bone defects and fractures. There are some two million units of cord blood stored in Europe, currently used for transfusions and the treatment of leukaemia. The project aims to find new uses for this blood.
Dr Paul Genever, is coordinating the project. 'The mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in cord blood appear similar to bone marrow stem cells but they are hard to locate. We aim to isolate and expand them so we have enough cells to use in therapies. We also want to compare them with bone marrow and embryonic stem cells and investigate how we can turn them into bone structures for use as 3D bone replacements,' he said.
If the research generates viable bone structures from cord blood stem cells, then cell-based therapies could become a reality, which could make, for example, hip replacements more durable.
The project will include input from academics from the university's departments of philosophy and sociology, who will assess the economic, ethical and sociological impacts of the work. The department of sociology aims to link any new developments to commercial ventures and investment, as well as to explore any limitations.
The department of philosophy will also contribute by looking at the ongoing debate on the use of stem cells, and particularly, how any benefits from the research are weighed against ethical concerns.
'The participation of colleagues from Sociology and Philosophy in a project such as this offers the opportunity for us to explore a more ethically and socially integrated kind of biology,' said Dr Genever.