Musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis account for enormous suffering and morbidity worldwide. There are currently 60,000 hip fractures per annum in the UK, 250,000 in the USA. Osteoarthritis is in the top 10 causes of disability with hip fractures being a major cause of mortality in an increasingly elderly population. Existing surgery includes hip replacement and artificial cartilage constructs but most have a limited life span and patients frequently require multiple revisions sometimes only regaining limited independence.
Prof Noble has two related projects that employ related techniques to derive bone and cartilage forming cells from two distinct sources – human embryonic stem cells and autologous adult stem cells. While autologous cells might be appropriate in a range of clinical situations, the use of embryonic stem cells addresses problems associated with production of large numbers of cells and when for genetic reasons the patients’ own stem cells cannot be employed. The stem cells are grafted onto bioactive scaffolds creating the optimum environment to nurture repair to areas of bone and cartilage damage.
Prof Brendon Noble, formerly of MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh