Spotlight on Research 2009

May 2009 (historical)

NIAMS Scientists Discover a New Source of Progenitor Cells in Traumatized Tissue

NIAMS scientists have discovered that tissue removed from traumatic wounds, traditionally considered medical waste, can be a source of progenitor cells. These cells feature many of the same properties as adult stem cells, particularly in that they have the capacity to differentiate into a specific type of cell. Researchers are currently studying ways to use progenitor cells to improve healing at the site of an injury, and traumatized tissue may provide an alternative source of cells for these therapies. The findings were recently published in two research reports in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and the Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.

Progenitor cells have the potential to develop into several different types of tissues and have been considered as a candidate cell type to treat injuries by means of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. However, in order to minimize rejection, the cells have to come from the person needing the treatment. Currently, the most common way to retrieve these cells is through surgery to remove them from the person's bone marrow or fat. This prolongs recovery time and can lead to medical complications. This new finding could provide an alternative way to retrieve the patient's own progenitor cells that could be used to treat injuries, without additional insult to the body.

Researchers in the Cartilage Biology and Orthopaedics Branch of the NIAMS, in collaboration with orthopaedic surgeons at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, looked at soldiers who were undergoing treatment for war-related injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The soldiers had penetrating trauma to the arms and legs, and required repeated debridement, or removal, of dead and damaged tissue. The researchers collected the debrided tissue and isolated mesenchymal progenitor cells, a type of cell that has the potential to develop into bone, fat, or cartilage cells. They cultured the isolated cells and expanded the numbers of viable cells in vitro. The researchers plan to continue their research to find better and faster isolation techniques, with the hope that the cells could be used quickly and effectively in the clinical setting to treat patients soon after injury for the purpose of tissue regeneration.


Nesti LJ, Jackson WM, Shanti RM, Koehler SM, Aragon AB, Bailey JR, Sracic MK, Freedman BA, Giuliani JR, Tuan RS. Differentiation Potential of Multipotent Progenitor Cells Derived from War-Traumatized Muscle Tissue. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2008 Nov;90(11):2390-8.

Jackson WM, Aragon AB, Djouad F, Song Y, Koehler SM, Nesti LJ, Tuan RS. Mesenchymal Progenitor Cells Derived from Traumatized Human Muscle.J Tissue Eng Regen Med.2009 Feb;3(2):129-38.