In a ground-breaking discovery, German researchers have successfully developed artificial bone marrow - capable of hosting life-saving hematopoietic stem cells that can facilitate the treatment of leukemia in a few years.
Till date, the affected cells of a leukemic patient are replaced by healthy hematopoietic stem cells - blood cells that give rise to all the other blood cells - from an eligible donor.
Now, the scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology's (KIT) Institute of Functional Interfaces in Germany have artificially reproduced major properties of natural bone marrow in the laboratory.
With the help of synthetic polymers, the scientists created a porous structure that possesses essential properties of natural bone marrow.
This can be used for the reproduction of stem cells at the laboratory, said a study published in the journal Biomaterials.
"We introduced hematopoietic stem cells isolated from cord blood into this artificial bone marrow. Analyses with various methods revealed that the cells really reproduce in the newly-developed artificial bone marrow," said Cornelia Lee-Thedieck from the KIT Institute of Functional Interfaces.
In a normal human being, blood cells are continuously replaced by new ones supplied by hematopoietic stem cells located in the bone marrow.
"This knowledge might contribute to producing an artificial stem cell niche for the specific reproduction of stem cells and the treatment of leukemia in 10-15 years from now," said the study.
A prototype has already been developed by scientists at KIT, the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart and TÃ¼bingen University in Germany.