- Jun 12, 2007
Doctors may soon be able to patch up broken bones with a simple shot in the arm.
British scientists are testing injectable stem cells that can be guided around the body with a magnet.
Once they reach the diseased or damaged bone, they turn into new bone and cartilage.
Researcher Professor Alicia El Haj, of Keele University, said: 'The ultimate aim is to repair cartilage and bone.
'We have been able to grow new bone in mice. Now we will look at whether we can repair damaged sites in goats.
'We should be able to move to human trials within five years.'
The treatment centres on stem cells - 'blank' cells with the ability to turn into other cell types - drawn from a person's own bone marrow.
They are then coated with tiny magnetic particles before being injected into the body.
A magnet, in the form of a cuff or a bracelet, is used to guide them to where they are needed.
The magnetic field also provides the trigger needed for the stem cells to turn into bone and cartilage.
The treatment could be used to mend fractures as well as to provide an alternative to joint replacements for osteoarthritis patients.
Professor Al Haj said patients could be given stem cell jabs in their doctor's surgery, removing the need for expensive hospital stays.
She added: 'It's really cheap. It doesn't involve expensive drugs. Magnetic particles are really cheap. It's really exciting.'