Touching Lives - March 2010
Stem cells may provide hope for brittle bones
Currently there is no cure for osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly known as brittle bone disease, yet there are around 4,000 diagnosed cases in the UK of this devastating condition.
Children with brittle bone disease can suffer fracture after fracture, often with little or no apparent cause. The disease can cause other problems too, such as hearing loss and retarded growth. Sadly, the most severely affected babies die soon after birth. A recent breakthrough suggests that transplanting stem cells from healthy babies to babies with brittle bone disease could improve bone strength.
In this project, researchers from Hammersmith Hospital, University College London, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and Imperial College, London, are transplanting stem cells from human placentas to see how they work, and are also studying how the timing of transplants affects results.
The team, led by Dr Pascale Guillot, envisage unborn babies could be given stem cell transplants during pregnancy, when the cells would be infused into a baby’s bloodstream. As stem cells can be stored for future use, it would be possible to give further transplants after birth, during childhood and in adult life, offering the hope of life-changing therapy for brittle bone patients.
This project has been supported by a generous grant from The Henry Smith Charity.