Case Study

Microspheres deliver stem cells for bone repair

Date: May 4, 2019

Microspheres that deliver stem cells to accelerate bone repair and regeneration are being developed through a collaboration between the University of Nottingham and Johnson Matthey.

Supported by an IKC Industrial Partnership Award, the research will explore whether silicate-based bioglass microspheres, can be manufactured into highly porous microspheres.

These would be injected via small needles directly into sites at high risk of fracture, providing millions of stem cells to regenerate bone tissue. The proposed prophylactic treatment could improve the quality and the density of bone in patients with osteoporosis.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham originally developed the single stage manufacturing method for producing highly porous microspheres with support from an IKC proof of concept grant.

The microspheres initially developed were made from a calcium phosphate glass material which is also under investigation for regenerating bone tissue. However, this material is not yet cleared for clinical use, so the researchers are also exploring alternative materials with Johnson Matthey and investigating a potentially faster route to market. They hope to be able to achieve similar results to those produced using phosphate-based glasses.

The initial IKC funding enabled the team to apply for a £1.2m grant from the National Institute for Health Research i4i programme to optimise the manufacture of calcium phosphate microspheres and design and test a delivery device. Through a patient survey, they also showed how receptive patients would be to the use of stem cells as a prophylactic treatment option for damaged bone.

“This technology offers a potential early-stage intervention for patients with osteoporosis, giving us the opportunity to strengthen compromised bone and reduce the risk of fragility fractures,” explains Dr Ifty Ahmed, who is leading the research. “Although our current focus is on osteoporosis, we can already see potential for treating other diseases, such as bone cancer.”

He added: “The key advantage of our porous microspheres is that we could also use them as a delivery vehicle for other biologics, for example, proteins, drugs or growth factors – there’s a lot of potential for this technology.”

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