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Need a new bone? Grow your own!

Replacing worn-out joints with metal and plastic parts is all the rage these days, but what an advantage it would be if we could grow our own spare parts if ever needed. Well, that may just become reality if the results of some interesting recent experiments on rats can be obtained in humans as well.

Like turning water into wine, St. Louis researchers have turned muscle into bone--and bone of just the right shape and size. Plastic surgeons at Washington University made tiny molds shaped like the jawbone or the head of the femur and put these silicone molds into the thighs of rats. The surgeons then took flaps of muscle from the rat (leaving the flaps still attached to their blood supply) and carefully put them into the molds.

Next, they treated the muscle with osteogenin and demineralized bone matrix, two substances that promote the growth of bone cells. In ten days, voild! The muscle had turned into the shape of the jawbone and head of the femur.

Unfortunately, these rat experiments have thus far produced only soft, non-weight-bearing bone. Bones to be used for replacement of the long bones in the leg, for example, would have to be strengthened by some means. For replacement of hip or knee joints, surgeons would also have to manufacture new cartilage. But then, who among us born in the first half of this century could have imagined that we would eventually be able to put a man on the moon?
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Title Annotation:growing bone from muscle
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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