TORONTO, March 17 (UPI) -- Donor stem cells injected into mice with age-related osteoporosis led to a restoration of normal bone structure, according to researchers at the University of Toronto.
The proof-of-concept study found a single injection of mesenchymal stem cells from healthy mice to those with osteoporosis led to the "surprising" development of normal bone structure.
MSCs are capable of becoming any cell, including bone cells, and donors do not need to match recipients because the cells won't be rejected.
With just one widely available treatment for osteoporosis, which is effective for about two years, researchers said the MSCs could be used to prevent the progressive condition.
"We had hoped for a general increase in bone health," John Davies, a professor at the University of Toronto, said in a press release. "But the huge surprise was to find that the exquisite inner 'coral-like' architecture of the bone structure of the injected animals -- which is severely compromised in osteoporosis -- was restored to normal."
For the study, published Stem Cells Translational Medicine, researchers took MSCs from healthy mice, injecting them into mice with osteoporosis. Within six months, osteoporotic bones became healthy and functional, the researchers report.
In addition to the study with mice, early trials with humans are underway that could lead to larger clinical trials within the next five years.
"It's very exciting," said Dr. Jeff Kiernan, a researcher at the Ottawa Hospital. "We're currently conducting ancillary trials with a research group in the U.S., where elderly patients have been injected with MSCs to study various outcomes. We'll be able to look at those blood samples for biological markers of bone growth and bone reabsorption."