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Award for pioneering stem cell research to mend broken bones

25 May 2009

Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) could lead to the development of new and better treatments for broken bones and other orthopaedic problems associated with ageing.

Nearly £4M has been awarded to scientists from the universities of Keele, Imperial College London, Nottingham and Southampton and who will work together combining stem cell science and tissue engineering to look at the development and repair of human skeletal tissue.

Fractures, bone loss due to trauma or disease and other orthopaedic conditions pose a significant clinical and socioeconomic problem, especially with an aging population, but as yet there is no large scale effective treatment for replacing or repairing damaged bones.

Professor Richard Oreffo, from the University of Southampton who is leading the study, said: “Despite intense research, significant challenges for the reconstruction of tissues such as bone remain. Bone and cartilage tissue repair is a highly complex development process. A key requirement for these regeneration strategies to succeed remains our ability to understand skeletal cell activity, develop appropriate scaffolds and to understand how the environment the cells find themselves in affects their ability to interact with other cells to form new bone or cartilage.”

Over the next five years, the scientists will combine their expertise in skeletal stem cells, scaffolds and materials chemistry to identify the key growth factors, matrix proteins and physical conditions that will enhance tissue regeneration and ultimately lead to more effective skeletal repair strategies.

“We believe a paradigm shift in approach is required if we are to lead internationally in regenerative medicine. Our findings of how stem cells, scaffolds and the physical environment can be combined to induce new bone and cartilage will be used to augment and accelerate bone repair. This will allow us to develop new regimes for cartilage and bone regeneration ultimately leading to more effective treatments” explained Professor Oreffo.

The research consortium comprises Professor Alicia El Haj, Keele University, Professor Molly Stevens, Imperial College London, Professor Kevin Shakesheff, University of Nottingham and Professor Richard Oreffo, University of Southampton.

Commenting on the award, Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: “Fractures, particularly among older people, are a major cause of morbidly and mortality, and costs the NHS billions of pounds each year. This truly multidisciplinary approach to the basic research necessary to improve our scientific understanding opens up exciting possibilities in the area of skeletal development and repair, an area where advancement is becoming increasingly urgent on both a quality of life and an economic level as our population gets older.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The lead researchers from the four universities are:

  • Professor Alicia El Haj, University of Keele - £670K
  • Professor Kevin Shakesheff, University of Nottingham - £1.12M
  • Professor Molly Stevens, Imperial College London - £205K
  • Professor Richard Oreffo - University of Southampton - £1.66M

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299
fax: 01793 413382

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382