Many diseases can affect our ability to regenerate bone tissue which is essential for fracture healing. As such, scientists around the world are working on the development of therapies capable of promoting faster and better regeneration. To do this, nanoparticles are sometimes used in an implant at the fracture level. They harbour molecules that protect the human body against infections and promote the transformation of stem cells - that is, cells without a defined function - into bone cells.
If the nanoparticles are present in too large a quantity, these techniques have the disadvantage of causing significant side effects. Certain types of plasma can also, under specific conditions, promote the production and differentiation of stem cells. However, the window of use between the positive effects on bone cells and their degradation is narrow.
In order to provide a more efficient and safer approach for the patient, David Duday and his team, from the Materials Research and Technology department at LIST, have developed a unique recipe. By combining plasma technology with nanoparticles patented by LIST, functionalised by UC Louvain and loaded into an implant by the Medical University of Lublin, they were able to significantly increase the process of bone regeneration while avoiding the cytotoxic effects associated with the use of plasma.
The key to this achievement lies in the use of metallic nanoparticles that direct the transformation of our stem cells into bone cells. “These metallic particles are scattered on the surface of larger silica nanoparticles and act like nano-antennas. Under exposure to the plasma beam, they lead, near stem cells, to the generation of molecules promoting their production and differentiation into bone cells,” explains David. This approach, which relies on more precise targeting of cells, makes it possible to use less plasma and fewer nanoparticles. Compared to current methods, the side effects, as well as the number of lost stem cells, are therefore less.
Through this project funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund and European funding agencies as part of the M-Era.net programme, LIST researchers and their partners have not only succeeded in increasing bone regeneration capacities in culture in vitro, but also paved the way for cutting-edge personalised medicine. Their approach consists of injecting the patient's stem cells, which have been previously collected and cultured, into the implant.
The researchers do not intend to stop there, however. "We will of course continue our research to further improve our mechanism in terms of efficiency and maturity. And, one of our goals would be to achieve custom-made implants to place at the fracture by 3D printing based on the patient's scan, ”David concludes.