Spotlight on Research for 2000

April 2000 (historical)

Unlimited Harvest of Stem Cells From Bone Marrow Possible, Reports NIAMS-Supported Study

A new protocol developed with support from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) has made it possible to obtain an almost unlimited number of a special class of stem cells from a small sample of bone marrow. The stem cells, variously referred to as mesenchymal, nonhematopoietic, or marrow stromal cells, have the ability to develop into cells of bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, and nerve.

The work, carried out by Darwin Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues at MCP Hahnemann University's Center for Gene Therapy in Philadelphia, Pa., penetrates a major barrier in using stem cells for gene therapy: obtaining an adequate number of cells. Cells to be used to treat a patient can be easily obtained from that same patient with a needle and syringe, and those cells can be genetically engineered and grown rapidly in culture.

Because the stem cells retain their potential for differentiation throughout the procedure, they appear to be excellent therapy vectors for a number of skeletal diseases, including osteogenesis imperfecta, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and muscular dystrophy. They also have potential use against such nervous system disorders as parkinsonism and Alzheimer's disease.

The study appeared in the March 28 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research, and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.

Colter D, Class R, DiGirolamo C, Prockop D. Rapid expansion of recycling stem cells in cultures of plastic-adherent cells from human bone marrow. PNAS 97(7):3213-3218, 2000.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leads the Federal medical research effort in arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. The NIAMS supports research and research training throughout the United States, as well as on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, and disseminates health and research information. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse is a public service sponsored by the NIAMS that provides health information and information sources. Additional information can be found on the NIAMS Web site at http://www.niams.nih.gov/.