Scientists from KIT, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart and the University of Tubingen have artificially recreated basic properties of the natural bone marrow in a laboratory, Xinhua reported.
The haematopoietic stem cells provide replenishment of red blood cells or immune cells, so they can be used for the treatment of leukemia, in a way that the diseased cells of the patient are replaced with healthy haematopoietic stem cells from a matched donor.
However, at present not every leukemia patient can find a matchable donor, so a simple solution to this problem would be to increase hematopoietic stem cells.
As the hematopoietic stem cells retain their stem cell properties only in their natural environment, the scientists need to create an environment that resembles the stem cell niche in the bone marrow.
To accomplish this goal, the German scientists created with synthetic polymer a porous structure that mimics the structure of the spongy bone in the area of the hematopoietic bone marrow.
In the artificial bone marrow, the researchers directed isolated hematopoietic stem cells freshly from umbilical cord blood and incubated them for several days.
Analyses with different methods showed that the cells actually proliferate in the newly developed artificial bone marrow.
Now the scientists can study the interactions between materials and stem cells in detail in the laboratory to find out how the behaviour of stem cell is influenced and controlled by synthetic materials.
This knowledge could help to realise an artificial stem cell niche for the targeted increase of stem cells to treat leukemia patients in 10 to 15 years.